Like most countries across the globe, Nigeria is grappling with several challenges in the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Some of the challenges facing the West African nation include mismanagement of COVID-19 funds, few isolation centers, COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, low vaccination roll-out, and mass looting of warehouses with COVID-19 food palliatives.
I4C Africa Hub, in partnership with Nigerian-based BudgIT, is implementing a project anchored on how to promote accountability in the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic with a focus in the States of Kaduna, Sokoto, Enugu, and the Delta States. BudgIT is a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement to facilitate societal change.
BudgIT is tracing and monitoring the transparency and accountability of funds appropriated by the Government of Nigeria towards its COVID-19 response and in-kind donations, including health equipment, commodities and supplies, and isolation and treatment centers infrastructure.
A recent stakeholders meeting held in the capital, Abuja brought together several Civil Society Organizations(CSOs) from the focus states and top officials from the Director of Disease control agency and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, deliberated on some of the four states' challenges.
The meeting explored options to raise and account for resources in response to the Pandemic. Poor funding toward the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic by all four states emerged as a significant challenge. On the other hand, most health workers have decried poor remuneration and shortage of personal protective equipment.
Among the CSOs that took part in the consultative meeting included the Centre for the Advancement of Literacy & Leadership (CALL), South East, Citizens Quest For Development, Accountability Lab, Nigeria, Follow the Money (FTM) International. Others included the National Volunteer Group on COVID-19, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), and Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF).
The results have been impressive. For instance, pressure from Civil Society Organizations forced the Sokoto State government to increase isolation centers from one to three. Additionally, Primary Health Care Centres responsible for the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine lack needed amenities.
The West African nation has officially announced a third wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, driving the number of cases to 195,890, with over 2,500 deaths reported. The total vaccinated Nigerians stands at 0.8 percent of the total population as of September 7.
CSOs have already launched public awareness campaigns encouraging Nigerians to be vaccinated. The CSOs have appealed to the national government to ensure equitable national access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, low awareness and low vaccine roll-out have characterized Liberia's fight against COVID-19. Despite the government putting in place the COVID-19 protocols, the lack of enforcing safety measures such as wearing masks correctly and public distrust of the vaccine's efficacy further undermines the fight against the Pandemic.
The findings are in a report recently released by the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), which is currently implementing a project monitoring Liberia's COVID-19 response and recovery process.
IREDD is a research-based policy advocacy organization focusing on promoting socio-economic justice, good governance, democracy, and integrity across the public administration in Liberia.
IREDD, which is implementing the project in partnership with I4C-Africa Hub, collected data regarding the 2020/2021 budgeted support to public health facilities across the country to promote accountability and transparency.
A survey carried out in the Counties of Montserrado, Margibi, and Nimba highlights challenges since the first case was reported in the West African nation in March 2020.
Lack of direct budget line appropriation and inadequacy of needed medical supplies are key. These issues cut across nearly all the 52 public health facilities visited so far, including the 20 Public Health Facilities mentioned in IREDD's first monitoring report, notes the report released in August.
With the Liberian government allocating millions in dollars in the fight against COVID-19, IREDD is urging the government to ensure that the funds are apportioned equally to each public health facility across the country to promote transparency accountability at both national and local levels.
On the accountability front, nearly all the 52 public health facilities sampled face the challenge of presenting real-time reports on medical supplies received.
Only six public health facilities could submit the reports, notes the findings. As the third wave of Coronavirus rocks Liberia, the report further voices concerns over the lack of vaccines in the health facilities.
Like many countries in the Global South, Liberia is experiencing a slow vaccination rate against COVID-19.
The lack of a comprehensive approach to ensure vaccine access in developing countries threatens to prolong the Pandemic, and fears abound that it might reverse any gains made.
One key aspect of this report that requires prompt action is the acute shortage or unavailability of vaccines across the 32 Public Health Facilities visited, notes the report.
IREDD has recommended that health facilities enforce health protocols, the government avail vaccines, and health facilities document monthly reports of all medical supplies flows. Other recommendations include decentralizing the testing process and stepping up public awareness of proper mask-wearing and disposal processes.