Nigerian Federation & JEI: Responses to COVID-19

23 April 2020

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On behalf of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation and Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Nigeria.

Over a month ago, the Nigerian Federation with support of JEI, began rapidly preparing to address the impending spread of COVID-19. Through cancelling all meetings, creating handwashing stations, distributing flyers in multiple languages, Federation tailors sewing 2,500 face masks and producing hand sanitiser – a multi-scale approach was taken to address the critical needs of the most vulnerable while warning communities of the imminent crisis. Over 16,000 informational flyers were printed and distributed in communities across Lagos in English, Hausa, Igbo, Egun and Yoruba, with 7,000 across Port Harcourt.

Assisting those most at risk – older, immune-compromised, homeless, indigent, immigrant/migrant Federation members to clinics to get tested when symptoms appear, while ensuring that there are no barriers to access due to language, cost, nor demographic – remains of utmost priority to the Federation.

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At this time, Lagos is three weeks into lockdown, food is still scarce and government programmes remain to be seen for 2/3 of the population living in informal settlements. Mohammed (Vagabond) Zanna reflects on the precarious position of Federations, and more broadly, the urban poor with the lack of plans and proper response.

“We are doing our best as the Federation, in Nigeria, as an affiliate of SDI. We are creating awareness, making face masks, sourcing food donations, but it is not enough. From our side, it is not enough, the government needs to do more. What they give, is not enough for that person, and their family to eat. It is not enough. We are caught between Coronavirus and hunger, if we stay home, we starve, if we go outside, we stand the risk of catching COVID-19, and spreading it to our families, and also our communities. This is the situation, and there is serious tension. Something needs to be done.”

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The ongoing work of information dissemination is crucial and focuses on social distancing that is tailored to the realities of living in informal settlements, recognizing symptoms, contacting government hotlines, and pushing back on false & dangerous information that has been simultaneously spreading. The communications includes regular WHO updates & recommendations, health education talks, and WhatsApp information campaign. These information campaigns are crucial to ensure updated and reliable information is reaching those most at risk, and to guarantee Federation experiences are being accurately shared.

Corona Diaries of the Urban Poor (#C19DiariesOfTheUrbanPoor) is a citizen journalism series that details COVID-19 pandemic at the intersection of urban poverty detailing the lived realities of slum communities told by current residents across Nigeria & Benin. With a mix of audio and visual mediums, and data conducted by the Federation in Nigeria & Benin, real-time stories are being developed. To continue following their work please check out the following social handles, Facebook, and Twitter: @vagabonkingdom @NaijaFederation @justempower – all above media can also be found on the JEI website with continued updated on the Corona Diaries page.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.