By Atinúkẹ́ Ṣeun-Ìgè.
COVID-19 and how it all began: At the outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2019, the world was thrown into chaos as the newly discovered virus caused mild to severe acute respiratory illnesses in humans. This virus, known to be predominantly spread from person to person, is transmitted through contacts, droplets of saliva or mucus of an infected person; and sometimes, through aerosols. Consequently, an infection which began in Wuhan, China, has now been reported on every continent. Incident rates gradually increased from one case and today, resulting in over 200 million infections all over the world and about four million deaths. The coronavirus disease was, therefore, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11, 2020, which was only a few months after its outbreak. For a disease prevalent over several countries of the world and which led to the death of many following series of lockdowns, one may want to look at what devastating effects COVID-19 must have brought on the entire world. It then became a huge challenge for countries to begin to seek response to this global disease, just as many struggled with lack of resources, lack of capacity and a dwindling economy.
From the foregoing, it is evident that COVID-19 has not only taken its toll on countries as a whole but has had really grave impacts on the vulnerable States and communities all over. One of such is Kaduna State, Nigeria.
Kaduna, one of the blessed States in Nigeria
Kaduna State is the fourth largest and third most populous State in Nigeria. Situated in the northern part of the country, Kaduna is known for being an industrial, commercial and financial centre of the region. The State is highly industrialised with over 80 manufacturing industries and companies, especially as the area is blessed with several minerals and raw materials spread across all of its 23 Local Government areas; with at least five mineral exploration licensed companies, 40 quarry licensed firms and 15 mining companies. The minerals and materials include clay, kyanite, graphite, gold, asbestos and sillimanite graphite used in the manufacture of pencils, electrodes, cassiterite, nickel, lithium, molybdenum, tantalite, wolframite, among many others.
In the rural areas of the State, the people are known mostly for farming, either crop farming or animal husbandry. Crops such as yam, cotton, groundnut, maize, beans, rice, cassava, among others, thrive well in the region. With several communities across its 23 Local Government areas, the Kaduna people definitely have good sources of livelihood.
However, the lifestyles of these set of people forcefully changed with the onset of the coronavirus disease. Just as the entire world was plagued with the virus and many were affected, the communities in the State were not left out of the grave impacts it had. From the health sector to economic activities, transportation, security architecture, education, among others, almost every sector in the State was affected by this pandemic. Today, Kaduna State is the fourth State with the highest incident rate in the country and also one of the six States recently placed on a red alert by the Federal Government, following the emergence of the Delta variant of the infection in the country.
The Emergence of COVID-19 in Kaduna State
On March 28, 2020, Kaduna State recorded its index case of the Coronavirus disease. Incidentally, this was the State Governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, who had tested positive, having contracted the virus on a trip to Abuja. Days after, there were a few more confirmed cases which were traced to be contacts of the index case and eventually, cases spread through the State. The first mortality case in Kaduna was recorded and announced on May 2, 2020. In handling the pandemic, Kaduna State had taken proactive steps with the expertise of its Deputy Governor, Dr Hadiza Balarabe, who is a public health consultant, and the Commissioner of Health, Dr Amina Baloni. Hence, a lockdown had been imposed early enough, even before any other State in the country.
Months into the pandemic, Dr Balarabe, in an interview, revealed how much healthcare had been a vital part of the current dispensation in Kaduna State which they had always wanted to improve upon.
“Over the past four years, the State has consistently devoted 16 % or more of the annual budget to health… Our goal is to increase the capacity of our health facilities, improve the quality of service and expand access to care. Central to this is a programme to upgrade staff and equip 255 PHC centres.”
The Kaduna State’s Deputy Governor further stated that the State Government has put up an emergency and rapid response structure at its State and local levels to handle epidemics and pandemics. All of these show efforts of the State Government in containing the spread of the novel virus.
At present, Kaduna State has over 9,000 confirmed cases of the virus and this has great effects on the socio-economic status of the State, with great fears for the future.
SOCIOECONOMIC EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON KADUNA STATE
Source of Livelihood and Trading Activities
Following the outbreak of the virus in the country, one of the first steps taken by the Kaduna State Government on March 25, 2020, was the announcement of a lockdown which lasted 75 days. But as part of the strategy for the safe reopening of the State, in June 2020, the State Government deployed improved testing capacity and other public health measures, which included a mobile testing vehicle (wellness-on-wheels), deployed by USAID to support the State’s COVID-19 containment efforts.
For any person or group of people who have their source of livelihood outside the home, a lockdown would have been greeted with reluctance, anger, fear of the unknown and frustration. This was the case for many people all over the country and even around the globe as they had to grapple with this new reality. Thus, the lockdown impacted negatively on the social life of the people. For a place like Kaduna which has a number of recreational centres and with a large population of residents, the new development inhibited a huge part of the social and cultural lifestyles of the people. Consequently, major trading activities were equally affected.
In an interview with a resident of the State, Engr Solomon Bankole, he noted that Kaduna, being a major trade centre in north-western Nigeria with several industries and manufacturing companies as earlier mentioned, was greatly affected by the pandemic, as industrialists could not go on with their business as usual, especially as the pandemic had reduced the inflow of money into the economy of States. Thus, the major boosters of the State’s economy, which was the ownership of industries, as well as the peasant farmers had their lives changed with the pandemic. As a result, the unemployment rate increased, those who had jobs lost their jobs and the poverty index increased.
Funding of the Health Sector
Another critical point to note is how the funding of the health sector was affected. It was earlier explained that the current administration in Kaduna State, under the leadership of Governor Nasiru El-Rufai, had placed priority on the health sector; unfortunately, all did not go as planned for them, as the funding of essential health services became challenging. First, as a result of reduced income, the State had to reduce its 2020 budget by 13.75%. Similarly, the Kaduna State Primary Health Care Board experienced an 11.5% cut in its budgetary allocation.
Also, the Kaduna State Contributory Health Management Agency’s budget mainly allocated to the enrolment and prepaid provision of essential services to the poor and vulnerable groups in the State suffered a 24% reduction.
The implication of this was in the delivery of healthcare services to the people. For instance, it was reported during the period that there was poor delivery in the areas of antibiotic management of new cases of pneumonia among children under the age of five, treatment of diarrhea cases and proper management of persons diagnosed with malaria.
Nevertheless, the State Government was still able to identify other means to raise revenue for itself through contributions from corporate and individual bodies.
Still addressing the health challenges occasioned by the pandemic, immunization programmes were equally affected by COVID-19. The Supplemental Immunization Activities which was supposed to be a routine programme was halted due to the absence of community engagements which was not feasible during the pandemic.
Findings from a report by a WHO facilitator who focused on Ikara and Kubau Local Government areas of Kaduna State also revealed that routine immunization coverage in the State had earlier increased from 35% to 73% but the ongoing pandemic had thwarted plans to see record more success in this area.
To state further, Kaduna State, known to be a centre of learning (due to the presence of many educational Institutions in the State), like many other States, had its education sector in disarray in the period of the pandemic; because there were fears of rapid spread of the virus, schools had to be on hold. The prevalence of more underage marriages may also not be left out of this, especially with the peculiarity of the northern culture and early marriages. On the long run, a teenager who is betrothed to a man without completing her secondary or tertiary education, could have been a better prospect for the society or been able to add more value if there was not the situation of closure of schools. As a matter of fact, parents who had no means of livelihood were willing to have their children leave the home. There were also salary deductions from civil servants, all in a bid for the Government to have a good response in the fight against the pandemic; these salary deductions amounted to over 400 million naira. Now, because not everyone could afford to have their children or wards educated anymore, the fear for the proper development of the State sets in.
Also, according to another resident in the State who requested anonymity, education during the lockdown was only for the elites, as they could afford sending their children to schools where online classes were judiciously harnessed. But for Students in public schools, they are behind academically, as some schools are even in the second term of the last academic year, while Students in other States are preparing to resume for another academic year.
The residents also noted the outcome of the external examinations done in the year 2020, in which many Students failed woefully, among many other setbacks in the State Education system.
Unfortunately, as COVID-19, at some point, was easing, the State Education system was again faced with insecurity challenges; many students have been kidnapped from their schools, with so much ransom to be paid. Some students have even died in the process of being kidnapped and some in the kidnappers’ den. But the question coming to mind is “how can the State education system be sustained with all these setbacks and challenges?” “Won’t these uneducated young hearts join the bandwagons in perpetrating evil both in the State and Nigeria at large?” Especially if the education system is constantly neglected….food for thought for the Government both at the Local, State and Federal levels.
Notably also is the fact that transportation services were affected as a result of the inter-state travel ban. This impacted on almost every other sector because goods could not be transported in and out of the state; hence, traders were affected, farmers could not convey their farm produce and thus, lost revenue.
Another resident who also pleaded anonymity added that the travel restrictions also affected the hospitality industry because people could not travel down to visit tourist centres or recreational places in the State. This could have been a boost to the State’s economy, but alas, a great reduction has been the result.
With the prevalence of the pandemic today and its constant mutations, scientists have predicted that one may have to learn to live with the virus as it may not be totally eradicated any time soon. But, is Kaduna State, and Nigeria at large ready for severe mutations?
To many of the residents in Kaduna State, there is still a long way to go, as the virus is presently more severe with more mortality rates across all ages and gender. This is because, as earlier noted, the State is yet to recover from its losses since the virus got in, just like many other States in the country and many other countries in the world. They noted that the pandemic is constantly posing threats to the development of the State, the northern region, Nigeria and the world at large.
Some of the residents also noted that the Government should take the enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols more seriously and penalise violators, which will be lessons for others.
There is a call to Government at all levels to take up the challenge and re-equip, rebuild and provide means of sustainable development. They should give special attention to improving health, education and transportation sectors, among others, in order to keep boosting the economy of every State and Country at large. Once there are economy boosts, each State and the Federal Government will have enough funds to adequately prepare for any mutation.
This story is supported by the I4C hub through BudgIT Foundation.