COVID-19: Action Aid Nigeria Advocates Social Safety For Women, Children

An anti-poverty non-governmental organisation working to combat poverty and promote social justice in Nigeria – ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, has urged governments at all levels to track and monitor the utilization of public and private resources committed to the COVID-19 response.

The organisation charged the government on collaboration with civil society organisations to ensure accountability of the resources urging government to put in place a clear accountability mechanism structure.

The organisation also decried the responses of some state governments who are converting health facilities to isolation centres as combative approach to COVID-19 pandemic thereby compromising women and citizens access to much needed healthcare services for other ailments.

It added that government should also innovate and communicate ways on how child education will be sustained nationally at this time while pupils are at home.

Their observations and recommendations were made known on Friday through AAN Country Director Ene Obi in a statement highlighted thus:

“The idea to sustain the school feeding programme is commendable, however children are not in school and there is no clear workable strategy for its implementation. More so, there are no clear information on how child education will be sustained nationally at this time.”

“Access to testing and quality of service received by COVID-19 infected persons remains a point of concern with some citizens reportedly paying for testing while others have complained of neglect and favoritism of infected influential persons.

“The attention on public health have shifted to the COVID-19 outbreak, women and citizens with other ailments are finding it more difficult to access much needed healthcare services; as some state governments are converting health facilities to isolation centres.

“The conditional cash transfer was initially designed to capture a particular set of beneficiaries under a ‘normal’ social and economic environment, however COVID-19 has altered that environment, hence, the beneficiaries list has expanded to include other set of persons affected by the pandemic.

“Women constitute a higher number of Nigeria’s informal economic sector and the lockdown will significantly affect them due to the increased burden of unpaid care work, loss of work and markets for their goods. Yet, government’s palliative measures are not prioritizing women. The exclusion of the Ministry of Women Affairs from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 further hinders the voices and needs of women being captured in governments’ response strategy.

“There is high probability that increased cases of Gender Based Violence especially towards women will be recorded at this time, but the Federal government’s response strategy did not capture a well-defined service provision for survivors.

“Information gaps, misconception and myths are still high amongst Nigerians, particularly at the grassroots. The concept of social distancing remains a mirage to many, campaign messages seems to omit children and persons with disabilities such as the deaf and blind.

“The lockdown of the states with infected cases is noble, but it will be ineffective if adjourning states do not follow suit.

“Civil Society Organizations who are the independent observers with workable solutions to coordination challenges are not carried along in the implementation of the strategy.

“In its recommendations, the organisation wants the government to focus on the interests of women, children, youths and persons with disabilities.

“Ensure that the focus on COVID-19 does not lead to diversion of resources away from other existing health priorities such as efforts to eliminate maternal and child mortality.

“Work with CSOs and other existing structures who already have database of the poorest of the poor including the aged, to ensure they benefit from the advance conditional cash transfer, as our findings show that some of the most vulnerable and poor are omitted from the list and will suffer other complications other than COVID-19.

“Prioritize vulnerable women in its palliative measures to cushion their loss of income because when women are reached, their household benefits. Electricity, water, food should be available to households to reduce the burden of care work on women.
Include Gender Based Violence (GBV) care as part of essential services, update GBV referral pathways and provide extra funding for GBV service provision.

“Ensure that awareness and prevention campaigns are intensified at the grassroots to demystify the myths and misconceptions on the novel virus. Such campaigns should be audience specific considering the information needs of children, the aged, the blind and deaf.

“Ensure that states implement the lockdown order as a matter of urgency for effectiveness with adequate notice to enable citizens prepare for the lockdown.

“Expand the membership of COVID-19 response team to include CSOs for effective coordination, accountability and transparency in the entire response.”

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