At least 20,000 people have now tested positive to covid19 in Nigeria, since the first case was reported in February, 2020.

As governments ease lockdowns to allow people go about their daily business and the economy restarts, it is also important to note that numbers are rising daily; and the risks of contracting the virus as you commute are high with more people now able to move around though public transport didn’t miraculously get better, and drivers are not adhering to social distancing guidelines. Recently, many Nigerians have commented on ‘a strand’ of malaria they have contracted, with symptoms including anosmia – the absence or decreased sense of smell; and aguesia – the loss of taste functions of the tongue. It is even harder for women during this pandemic as UN Women reports that sexual and gender based violence has been a shadow pandemic during these times.

So, how can you stay safe during Covid19 in Nigeria?

The Programme on Women, Peace and Security in Nigeria, believes you can stay safe if you practice all or any of the following:

1. Wash your Hands and/or use alcohol based sanitizer

wash hands during covid19 in Nigeria

Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers

The World Health Organization advices that washing hands thoroughly with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds protects against infection.  The American Centre for Disease Control and prevention also advices that using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help prevent the spread of the infection. You can keep you and your loved ones safe, from Covid19 in Nigeria by washing your hands often, especially before, during, and after preparing food; before eating food; before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea; before and after treating a cut or wound; after using the toilet; afterchanging diapers, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal, animal, animal feed, or animal waste; after handling pet food or pet treats and after touching garbage.

2. Wear a facemask appropriately

The World Health Organisation has demonstrated how to wear a face mask safely, without infecting yourself in the process.

The Population Health Division of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, advises that disposable face masks should be used once and then thrown in the trash. You should also remove and replace masks when they become moist/wet.

Remember to always follow product instructions on use and storage of the mask, and procedures for how to put on and remove a mask. However, whether you are using surgical, N95 or locally produced masks; always wear and remove your mask, holding the ear loops, ties or bands. Remember to dispose properly, or immediately soak in water, with soap for a while before washing; for reusable masks.

3. Adhere to and encourage social distancing

people adhering to social distancing guidelines to prevent covid19 in Nigeria

Social distancing refers to putting in place adequate physical space between people with the aim of slowing down and reducing the spread of Covid19. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control advices that you can stay safe during Covid19 in Nigeria, if you adhere strictly to guidelines on social distancing; including staying up to 2 metres (6 feet) away from the next person, staying at home as stipulated by the government, and avoiding crowded places, if it is necessary for you to step outside your house.

4. Don’t commute unless necessary

gender responsive public transport to stay safe during covid19 in Nigeria

Although public transport is often seen as gender neutral, it actually isn’t. Women and men have varied expectations, needs and risks when it comes to using public transport, especially in Nigeria. While the risks have always been there especially when commuting at night, the lockdown presents further risks of sexual and gender based violence. As the lockdown is being eased, more people are eager to commute and this presents further dilemma for women as not all public transport operators have resumed commercial duties.

The more women spend time at bus stops, the more vulnerable they are to sexual offenders, traffickers, kidnappers and rapists. It is advised to order delivery of essentials, and work remotely especially in urban areas as Sociologists, Denen, Asaju and Bott  from the Plateau State University, Nigeria write  that the anonymity and invisibility of women in urban areas enables domestic violence, robbery, and sexual assaults, to a greater degree than in rural areas, where it is harder to hide abuse in more linked and homogenous communities.

5.  Find Succour at Shelters

shelter for women from domestic violence during covid19 in Nigeria

Staying at home during covid19 in Nigeria, doesn’t always mean safety. While it is no longer deniable that sexual and gender based violence has spiked during covid19 in Nigeria, there are have been efforts geared towards combating the menace, and providing succour to survivors. One of such, is the Spotlight Initiative, supported by the European Union in Nigeria, the United Nations through various agencies, the British Council, other Foreign Governments, International Non-governmental Agencies and Civil Society Organizations who are repurposing shelters for women and children to escape domestic abuse. Find more information about the initiative, and the hotlines to call if you need to move in to a shelter here.

It is unclear, how long it will take for life to return to normal, as a vaccine has still not been found for the virus. It is important to always choose safety first.


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