Helping Communities Fight the Spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria

March 25, 2020

UNICEF is supporting COVID-19 health education handwashing campaigns in Africa's most populous country. 

Amid growing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus in Nigeria, a Lagos State Ministry of Health team arrived at the Ansar-ud-deen Central Mosque, Odo-Eran, in Mushin. Their aim: to highlight the critical importance of good hygiene practices – including frequent, thorough handwashing with soap and running water – to stem the tide of the virus.

Teaching proper handwashing practices will save lives  

As community members gathered, the Community Development Association Chairman, Alfa Mustapha Nasirudeen, said, “For the first time ever, our people could not attend the regular Jummat prayer held at this Mosque every Friday because of their fear of getting the coronavirus.”

Temitope Akinterinwa shares good hygiene practices with the Mushin community in Nigeria's Lagos State. © UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Ojo

“People are becoming aware of the fact that this infectious disease is here with us and many are eager to learn how to protect themselves,” said Temitope Akinterinwa.

The campaign kicked off with explanations about what coronavirus is, its symptoms, mode of transmission, and ways to prevent it. The team carried out simulations of how to wash hands properly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and how to sneeze or cough properly into the elbow, especially in public. School children were excited and curious to see the handwashing demonstration.

Debunking misinformation is a key part of UNICEF's public health messaging

“We also debunked rumors and myths around the coronavirus, which unfortunately are now being widely shared on social media and via WhatsApp messages in Nigeria,” said Temitope Akinterinwa.

Some of the false information being circulated includes that the virus cannot survive in Africa because of the hot weather, that taking a high dose of chloroquine medication can protect you, and that consuming large quantities of ginger and garlic can prevent the virus.

Community members practice sneezing or coughing into their elbows to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. © UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Ojo

“We are encouraging families to trust information only from reliable voices, such as Nigeria's Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and other authentic sources.”

UNICEF is supporting awareness campaigns by health educators in all 376 wards in all the local government areas of Lagos State, which makes up more than 14 million people, and similar programs in other parts of Nigeria, including Delta State

Farida, 9, proudly shows off her clean hands after learning how to wash them properly at a UNICEF-supported COVID-19 public awareness event in Lagos, Nigeria in March 2020. © UNICEF Nigeria/2019/Ojo

“I will teach my friends the eight steps of effective handwashing with soap and running water that I learnt today,” said 9-year-old Farida excitedly, as she showed off her clean hands.

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Blessing Ejiofor is a UNICEF Nigeria communication officer. 

Top photo: A young girl in Lagos, Nigeria holds a handwashing poster at a UNICEF-supported public awareness event to inform communities on how to protect themselves and their families from the novel coronavirus. © UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Ojo