As part of efforts to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, the Federal Government on Monday launched the ‘Powerful H.A.N.D’ campaign targeted at states with high COVID-19 cases within the country.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said at the launch, organised by the Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI), that the campaign that was aimed at increasing the number of Nigerians who practice COVID-19 preventive measures which includes regular hand washing, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Chikwe Ihekweazu said at the launch.
Ihekweazu noted that the pandemic has led to the rapid development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines showing how remarkable human capacity is to build on years of existing research to bring about exponential scientific innovation.
He however said the H.A.N.S campaign, which is a National Social and Behaviour Change Campaign is simpler to curb the spread of the virus.
Ihekweazu said Nigeria recorded over 165,000 confirmed cases and about 200 deaths arising from COVID-19 with over 150,000 recovery cases successfully managed and discharged from hospital.
He explained that the emerging variants of the COVID-19 threatens the achievement made so far in curtailing the disease, hence the need for more efforts to eliminate it in totality.
He also explained that that the acronym stands for, “H -Have your hands washed or sanitised frequently; A -Always cough or sneeze into your elbow; N -No going out without face mask; D -Distance of at least two arm’s lengths should be maintained; and S -Stay indoors and self-isolate if you feel sick.
The NCDC boss said although the pandemic fatigue is understandable, it is important for everyone to continue to adhere to all non-pharmaceutical measures already put in place.
“Wash your hands with soap and water, use alcohol-based sanitisers, ensure physical distancing, do not attend large gatherings, especially those without adherence to COVID-19 protocol,” he said.
In his remarks, the United Nation’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon said although the number of cases in Nigeria are reducing, the risk of transmission persists along with the emerging COVID-19 variants from countries such as India and South Africa.
Mr Kallon said this calls for need to sustain the gains already made in the nation’s response to the pandemic to ensure there is no resurgence.
“There is no better time than now to empower and encourage people to sustain the practise of preventive behaviours to protect themselves and loved ones from the scourge of COVID-19. We are optimistic that this campaign will rekindle families, friends and children’s efforts to contain the transmission of COVID-19,” he said.
Representing the five joint UN agencies in Nigeria, the country representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Peter Hawkins said the pandemic has overcome many people’s lives around the world.
He said Nigeria must not be complacent to prevent the COVID-19 situation witnessed in other countries.
Mr Hawkins said the timing of campaign is right as it hands over the power to stop COVID-19 pandemic to the people.
“The vaccine is here in Nigeria and the campaign is going well but it will be a long time before the campaign can be fully implemented. With our hands, only with our hands can we defeat this pandemic,” he said.
Also, the Executive Director of Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI), Babafunke Fagbemi said the campaign is starting now to sustain gains already made in the fight against the pandemic.
She said that the campaign will be carried out in six states of Lagos, Oyo, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Rivers and the FCT and that this will last for an initial period of four months while communicating the main message that “The Power to Stop COVID-19 is in our H.A.N.D.S”.
She said the Nigeria infectious disease centre has done tremendous work to ensure the country recorded low cases as compared to others.
Ms Fagbemi said it is pertinent to inject people with latest information to rebuild hope and give confidence to fight the pandemic.
“We need to revive a sense of apathy, seeming hopelessness in communities by injecting fresh messages that will give hope and let people have more confidence and build their efficacies to be able to do something and the messages are easy to recall.
“Social and behaviour change is the bedrock in sustainable gains in improving the health and wellbeing of society and family. And once you get these pillar rights, of changing behaviour, it is easy to build up the other components of the campaign.
“CCSI will be collaborating with the Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) pillars in the target states to engage prominent stakeholders in two hot spot LGAs to promote the key behaviours of the campaign to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19,” she said.
Also, the Head, EU Delegation in Nigeria, Mr Ketil Karlsen said the EU and its member states in Europe have mobilised €38.5 billion in response to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.
Karlsen, represented by Head of Partnership, EU, Cecile Tassin-Pelzer said the union had also supported Nigeria with over four million doses of vaccines and allocated €50 million to complement government efforts in addressing COVID-19.