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India’s COVID-19 wave: Danger signal to Nigeria

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Family members and relatives perform the last rites amid the funeral pyres of victims who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus during mass cremation held at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 27, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)


Nigerians and Indians share many similarities and not just in their love for spicy foods. Both countries served the same colonial masters and were subjects of the same monarch, the British empire.

They are both multi-ethnic and multilingual societies, having about 250 and 450 distinct languages in Nigeria and India languages, respectively. The two countries are highly religious, and the citizens are adherents of many religious faiths. And that’s where the similarities end.

In her paper published in Cornell international Affairs Review, Carolyn Cohn writes:
“Despite these key similarities in certain aspects of their colonial and decolonization experiences, India and Nigeria have had very different levels of success in their efforts to create and maintain politically stable nation-states. Today, India is distinguished from other postcolonial independent nations for its political stability, demonstrated by its “set of stable political and legal institutions that has now remained more or less intact for over five decades” and a parliamentary democracy that has “remained more or less unchanged since India’s independence and continues to function in an orderly fashion”. Nigeria, on the other hand, is an exemplar of third world political instability, characterized as “highly nondemocratic and prone to using force” and plagued by recurrent coups and violent ethno-religious conflicts.”

While Nigeria may no longer be plagued with recurrent military coups, violent ethnic and religious conflicts and vast insecurities remain major problems that the country continues to grapple with. 

In terms of quality of life and standard of living, Nigeria and India could not be more different. Below, are some of the areas where Nigeria significantly lags behind India in key indicators of quality of human existence.
(Source: My Life Elsewhere)

If you lived in Nigeria instead of India, you would: Be 7.5 times more likely to be living with HIV/AIDS.
In India, 0.2% of people are living with HIV/AIDS as of 2017. In Nigeria, that number is 1.5% of people as of 2018.
Live 9.3 years less

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In India, the average life expectancy is 70 years (68 years for men, 71 years for women) as of 2020. In Nigeria, that number is 60 years (59 years for men, 62 years for women) as of 2020.
Be 2.3 times more likely to be obese
In India, 3.9% of adults are obese as of 2016. In Nigeria, that number is 8.9% of people as of 2016.
Pay a 32.5% lower top tax rate

India has a top tax rate of 35.5% as of 2016. In Nigeria, the top tax rate is 24.0% as of 2016.
Make 18.1% less money
India has a GDP per capita of $7,200 as of 2017, while in Nigeria, the GDP per capita is $5,900 as of 2017.
Be 94.1% more likely to be unemployed

In India, 8.5% of adults are unemployed as of 2017. In Nigeria, that number is 16.5% as of 2017.
Be 3.2 times more likely to live below the poverty line.

In India, 21.9% live below the poverty line as of 2011. In Nigeria, however, that number is 70.0% as of 2010.
Have 90.1% More Children

In India, there are approximately 18.2 babies per 1,000 people as of 2020. In Nigeria, there are 34.6 babies per 1,000 people as of 2020.
Be 6.3 times more likely to die during childbirth

In India, approximately 145.0 women per 100,000 births die during labor as of 2017. In Nigeria, 917.0 women do as of 2017.
Be 16.7% less likely to be literate

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In India, the literacy rate is 74.4% as of 2018. In Nigeria, it is 62.0% as of 2018.

Be 68.9% more likely to die during infancy
In India, approximately 35.4 children die before they reach the age of one as of 2020. In Nigeria, on the other hand, 59.8 children do as of 2020.
Be 21.9% more likely to have internet access
In India, approximately 34.5% of the population has internet access as of 2018. In Nigeria, about 42.0% do as of 2018.
Be 29.8% less likely to have access to electricity
In India, approximately 84% of people have electricity access (98% in urban areas, and 78% in rural areas) as of 2017. In Nigeria, that number is 59% of people on average (86% in urban areas, and 41% in rural areas) as of 2017.
Be 16.0% less likely to have access to improved drinking water

In India, approximately 93% of people have improved drinking water access (96% in urban areas, and 91% in rural areas) as of 2017. In Nigeria, that number is 78% of people on average (93% in urban areas, and 64% in rural areas) as of 2017.

With the recent resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic in India, and thinking of that country’s superior quality of life metrics, I can’t but be alarmed for Nigeria. If India, home to some of the highest Coronavirus vaccine productions in the world and with its far better health infrastructure, can experience this level of COVID-19 infections and deaths, it scares me to death to think of what awaits Nigeria.

For political reasons, the Indian government and its people took their eyes off the COVID-19 ball. As a result, the pandemic is raging in the country, and a national health crisis has ensued. In April, COVID-19 deaths in India surpassed the 200,000 mark and the country recorded more than 48,000 deaths in one month.

The unrelenting second wave has overwhelmed India’s healthcare system. There is a shortage of hospital beds and hospital supplies. A country that manufactures oxygen, medicines, and vaccines is now experiencing vast shortages of these critical life saving needs. 

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Indians are suffocating to death in the hospitals from lack of oxygen and they are dying at an alarming rate of 3,000 people on a daily basis. Scattered all over India, in temples and schools, are makeshifts crematoria where people wait in long lines just to have their dead relatives cremated.

Up till now, Nigeria has pretty much skirted around COVID-19 and the country has been largely spared from the severity of the pandemic. As a result, many Nigerians have developed a dangerous sense of invincibility and the citizens continue to downplay the severity of the virus. This was exactly the same prevailing mindset the Indians had until COVID-19 showed up in its full fury and is devastating the country.

It is always better to learn from the experience of others than to suffer the consequences of our own actions and inactions. What is happening in India should sound an ear shattering note of warning to the Nigerian government. In a country with a vaccination rate of a mere 0.57 percent, Nigerians cannot afford to let down their guards. To avoid an unmitigated disaster, the people must remain vigilant and must continue to diligently observe all the public health safety measures that have been put in place.

Before it is too late, the people of Nigeria should look to India and learn from the experience of that country. “Aabo oro laun nso fun omoluwabi to ba de inu re a di odindi.” A word is enough for the wise.
Ojumu, MD, MPH, of the US National Institutes of Health, writes on the African Plume Blog.
https://www.africanplume.com/; https://twitter.com/PlumeAfrican; E-mail: africanplume@gmail.com

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