Covid-19 in Borno Could be Crushingly Devastating
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has confirmed that Borno Sate has recorded its index Covid-19 case. This thus far is the most worrisome confirmed case to me not just because I am from the northeast, but also because of reports that the victim is a humanitarian worker in an internally displaced persons camp. This raises the possibility of the virus getting to the must vulnerable humans on face of the earth.
HumAgle reported earlier that the victim was a humanitarian worker at Pulka IDP camp in Gwoza local government Area. This person was working with people displaced by Boko Haram. The fact that he is a retired nurse suggests that he was working right inside the camp, seeing patients.
This raises the worrying possibility that IDPs might have been exposed by the deceased or other colleagues who mingled with him. IDPs leave in close quarters in large camps. Their makeshift rooms are only meters apart. Effective social distancing will be hard, if not impossible, in such a setup. The Pulka camp is one of the largest. It hosts around 60,000 people.
Furthermore, many of the children, who play together, in these camps are already dealing with nutritional diseases, some of them chronic. This would likely complicate issues further and put people at a higher risk. Furthermore, this will instill fear of aid workers and displaced displaced people.
Another worrying angle is the fact that the victim was treated and died in University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital in Maiduguri. This suggests that some health workers have interacted with him, and fellow patients might have been exposed too. The driver and others who conveyed him from Pulka to the hospital might have been exposed as well.
Borno remains the state worst hit by Boko Haram. In addition to violence, the state is bedeviled with complex humanitarian crisis. Adding Covid-19 to the equation will make a bad situation worse. If this virus gets into IDP camps, the result could be crushingly devastating.
I did not paint this bleak picture to be sensational or scaremonger. Far from it. I did so to demonstrate the possible enormity of what we are dealing with and urge governments to look at all possibilities and swing to action without any delay. The old adage ‘to get the best, you need to expect and prepare for the worst’ is especially true with coronavirus.
It behooves the Borno state and federal governments to move fast. They should clarify whether this person was an aid worker, if he was at his duty post recently, how much contact did he have with his colleagues, what is the man’s recent travel history, etceteras.
Governments must also transparently start tracking, tracing and isolation efforts so that peace might be restored to people’s mind. Rumors are already ripe in and around the city and if governments do not provide prompt clarifications, fears will escalate.