The year 2020 started out normal. The usual things happened. People turned out in masses at places of worship for the new year festivities. Most went through the usual rituals like making New Year resolutions. However, things took a different turn when on the 27th of February, 2020, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire confirmed on LIVE national TV, the very first COVID19 case in Nigeria.
It was the first to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan Province in China in late 2019. The country had watched stories of COVID-19 restrictions in other countries but this time, it was different. It was no longer a story from a faraway place. This was real. The index case was an Italian man who flew in from Milan to Lagos via Turkish Airways. He was tested and confirmed positive for COVID-19 by the Reference Laboratory in Yaba.
On the 11th of March, 2020, with 118,000 cases across 114 countries, and 4, 291 people dead, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak. Just a week later, Nigerian authorities announced restrictions for travelers from 13 countries including the US and UK. This coincided with the discovery of 5 new COVID-19 cases. The restriction applied to travelers from countries with more than 1,000 cases.
In May 2020, the International Federation of the Red Cross then launched a revised emergency global appeal worth 1.9 billion Swiss Francs to support an IFRC-wide response and 192 National Societies.
With funding from the International Federation of the Red Cross, the Nigerian Red Cross Society, which was founded in 1958 via an Act of Parliament, swung into action.
The COVID-19 Response of the Nigerian Red Cross was a multiple pronged one. It incorporated elements of Risk Communication, Community Engagement, Psychosocial Support, Contact Tracing and Cash Transfer. Its aimed to engage with ordinary people and use risk communication to show them simple ways to avoid contracting the deadly virus in the first place, through adhering to basic safety protocols.