The COVID-19 pandemic which started in Wuhan, China sometime in December, 2019 felt like a distant disease that was unfolding at the other side of the world. But as it spread across Europe, particularly Italy and Spain, with a lot of deaths in early March reality gradually set in that this disease could get anywhere including my beloved Nigeria. What was scarier was the fact that if developed countries like America and the United Kingdom with proper and good health systems could crumble under the weight of COVID-19, how would African countries with little or no health care system survive the pandemic?
Reality for Nigeria came in late February 2020, when an Italian man brought the disease from Italy to Nigeria. At first, it was properly managed within the few weeks of the disease entering the country
However, by the middle of March the disease had gotten out of control and Lagos where I work and reside became its epicenter. In a country of over 120 million people, the virus continued to spread like wild fire and eventually companies closed their offices and employees started working from home. My organization was no exception, after a discussion with the board we closed our offices on the 24th of March and started to work from home.
Not long after the closure of our offices, the Government imposed a two-week full lockdown in Lagos State, Ogun State and Abuja. The lockdown took effect on the 31st of March about a week after the borders were closed and international flights barred because it was noticed that most of the confirmed cases were recent returnees from foreign countries.
Before the lockdown took effect, we shopped for food and essential household items to see us through the two-week period we expected the lockdown to last as the restriction of movement would make it difficult to purchase these items. When the lockdown started in my area of Gbagada its compliance was quite high and people only came out for some form of exercise that could not be done indoors. The police and the army were also in place to ensure that people stayed at home.
By the end of the first lockdown, COVID-19 cases had spiraled out of control, so there was a two-week extension. After four weeks, an additional week of lockdown was introduced. Five weeks of lockdown appeared to be the Government’s limit so even though the number of confirmed cases was still rising the lockdown was lifted as the already fragile economy was becoming affected. On the 4th of May, the full lockdown was replaced with a partial lockdown and an 8 p.m curfew.
All through the lockdown, my organization’s work from home strategy proved to be very effective. The strategy included daily Zoom meetings to keep abreast of what was going on with work and ourselves. In one of the meetings with the Board of Trustees it was decided that as an organization we should help the less privileged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a lot of deliberations, we agreed to give facemasks to the staff of orphanages in Lagos. A colleague and I were chosen to distribute the facemasks - 20 to each orphanage - and what an experience that was.
On the first day of distribution, we set out as early as seven o’clock on a Sunday morning. The roads were free as they were devoid of the usual Lagos traffic which could have made it a bit difficult to get to our different locations as most of them were far flung from each other.
Just before we located the first orphanage, it started to rain heavily, the rain was so heavy we had to park our car and wait for it to subside. When the rain did not ease up after about thirty minutes, we decided to continue on our mission. As our first two orphanages were on the island, the roads were already flooded and as we drove through flooded roads, we prayed that we wouldn’t enter a gutter as we could not distinguish the road from the gutter. Eventually, with the help of Google Maps we were able to find the orphanages. Google Maps was quite helpful in our search for these orphanages as it would have been quite difficult to find them without it. We got lost several times, but we eventually completed the task which would not have been possible if not for the app.
Our second day of distribution was a Monday, so the usual Lagos Monday morning traffic was there despite our setting out early. We visited the Sickle Cell Foundation and donated 100 facemasks to them. We were received very well and great appreciation was shown for our donation. After the Sickle Cell Foundation, we visited more orphanages to give them their facemasks.
We continued to visit orphanages and, in the end, succeeded in getting our masks to thirty-three of them. The distribution of the masks was quite an experience for us because we helped a lot of people with the little resources that we had, to protect themselves and those around them. At the orphanages, we ensured that we were wearing our masks, maintaining social distancing and were careful regarding the things we touched. We also made sure that we generously used the hand sanitizer we had with us and wiped down surfaces and pens that others may have touched.
We were well received at all the orphanages and it was a thing of joy for us to see the staff’s face light up when we made our donation. It was well worth the experience. Overall, my COVID-19 experience has taught me that we can adapt, no matter the situation we find ourselves in.
How have you been coping in these troubled times? Do you have a Covid-19 story you would like to share? If you do, we want to hear your story and make it part of our ‘Looking Back: The COVID-19 Pandemic Year’ project. Send your story to [email protected]