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Assisting to contain post COVID-19 effect on health, economy

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Chinye-Nwoko

•NSSF plans to reach one million vulnerable Nigerians with coronavirus vaccine
•Partners Global Citizen, others to tackle jab inequity, hesitancy, scarcity in Nigeria

Worried about the adverse effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the health sector and economy as well as cases of vaccine inequity and hesitancy, stakeholders have adopted proactive measures to address the situation.

The stakeholders led by the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF) or the Fund, also called on world leaders, corporate organisations, and foundations to address the issues of equitable distribution of and education about COVID-19 with the urgency it deserves.

Established as a partnership between Global Citizen and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the NSSF is an innovative platform for resource mobilisation primarily created to complement government’s efforts at mitigating the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians.

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The Fund has set a target for 2021/2022 to “ensure that one million Nigerians” are vaccinated against COVID-19 and would, on September 25, 2021, combine efforts with the international advocacy organisation, Global Citizen, at the Global Citizen Live event to further amplify the issues.

General Manager, NSSF, Dr. Fejiro Chinye-Nwoko, who disclosed this during a virtual meeting with health editors, said the organisation is assisting to curb the effect of COVID-19 in Nigeria. She said NSSF is a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) established in 2020 partnering with Global Citizens and NSIA. Chinye-Nwoko said the main focus of NSSF is guard against the adverse effect of COVID-19 spread in Nigeria and sort the post impact of the pandemic in the country especially in terms of the economy and health system.

The medical doctor said the three main objectives of NSSF are to: assist vulnerable populations in Nigeria; to strengthen the health sector to recovery from the assault of the pandemic; and to re-skill the youths post COVID-19 to restore economic reliability and competitiveness in the post COVID-19 world.

“Based on this, we launched NSSF last year and we started operations May this year. We did not anticipate that the pandemic will still be ongoing and ravaging the world by now. So we came up with the idea to assist with COVID-19 vaccinations. We know to end the pandemic, we have to achieve herd immunity,” Chinye-Nwoko said.

Chinye-Nwoko said NSSF believes that everyone should have access to quality and affordable healthcare services when they need it, young Nigerians should be enabled with opportunities for self-empowerment and well-skilled for a post-COVID era and that the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and marginalised groups in Nigeria should not be left behind.

She said the Fund would enable Nigerian Citizens resident at home or in the diaspora as well as international donors to come together and directly contribute to Nigeria’s fight against the pandemic.

Vice Chairman of Global Citizen Nigeria, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, in a press statement, said: “There is only one way of dealing with this pandemic, which is the vaccines and as we well know, to get the type of herd immunity that makes a nation safe, there is a minimum percentage of the population that needs to be covered, typically well above 60 per cent. In Nigeria, we are way below that with only about one per cent of the populace having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

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“Considering the scary statistics and the need to act fast to save lives, we are putting necessary mechanisms in place to enable us mobilise the required resources to get at least one million Nigerians vaccinated before the end of 2022.

“The Global Citizen Live event affords us the opportunity to tell our impact story and get the support we need to end this pandemic in the quickest time possible.”

Chinye-Nwoko said the world is tackling the pandemic in three fronts: to prevent infections by introducing restrictions and lockdowns; treatment and management of cases; and vaccinating everyone to prevent the adverse effect of the virus and death.

The physician added: “We have decided that we are going to help vaccinate one million vulnerable Nigerians. We are going to partner with other like-minded organisations to purchase vaccines for Nigerians. We are working with the Federal Government through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). We are going to get more vaccines. We are going to help improve uptake. So far, we have got about eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the beginning and only one per cent of a population of over 200 million people have been vaccinated. We are already in agreement with NPHCDA. We are not going to have a parallel programme with NPHCDA.”

She encouraged more Nigerians to get vaccinated because COVID-19 leaves survivors with permanent lung damage, which is part of the many side effects.

She further explained: “People who are diabetic, hypertensive, with sickle cell anaemia. The Delta variant is beginning to affect children. Children with co-morbidities like hole in the heart, sickle cell anaemia are worst hit. When we get 80 to 90 per cent herd immunity, the remaining part of the population that are vaccine-hesitant may get protection. If we don’t get vaccinated, the virus will become more virulent and more variants are emerging and will emerge.

“If we don’t stop the virus now, it will get beyond our control. Vaccine can stop this virus from turning into a monster we cannot get hold of. We don’t have the resources to afford that. It is better to prevent this pandemic from growing into something else.”

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On how NSSF intends to reach one million Nigerians with COVID-19 vaccines, Chinye-Nwoko said: “We target the states and communities that have low uptake and vulnerability. We should be looking at communities with vulnerable groups and we should be looking at data, which will guide us. We have got KPMG to help us with the monitoring and tracking of these vaccines and how they are distributed.

“We think that because of vaccine hesitancy it will be better to use a vaccine that requires one dose but we have not made up our mind. Get vaccinated. COVID-19 is real. The vaccines save lives. Jump on this moving train.”

The Global Citizen Live is a Historic 24-Hour Broadcast Spanning Six Continents and will air across ABC, ABC News Live, BBC, FX, iHeartRadio, Hulu, YouTube, TIME, Twitter, and more. Artistes will help rally citizens in demanding that governments, major corporations, and philanthropists work together to defeat poverty and defend the planet by focusing on the most urgent, interrelated threats hitting those in poverty the hardest – climate change, vaccine equity, and famine.

Coinciding with the UN General Assembly (September) before the G20 Meeting (October) and COP26 Meeting (November), these events focus on interconnected issues: vaccine equity, climate change, and famine.

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