In 2020, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that people were not following public health and social distancing measures, meaning that COVID-19 continued to spread at an alarming rate.
The Lafiya programme identified two key challenges which contributed towards this:
- Messaging was not tailored or appropriate for vulnerable people, particularly those with disabilities, who make up 15-20% of the population. In Lagos State, access to COVID-19 safety information by vulnerable groups remains a challenge despite the huge media focus on the pandemic. Before COVID-19, there was a severe lack of media coverage on disability in the health sector in Lagos State. In the last 12 months, this has only become more apparent.
- In Kano State, it found that people did not understand the risk of the infection. This meant they did not take notice of ‘non- pharmaceutical protocols’ and other public health advise given by the NCDC and government.
“It is still observed that most vulnerable groups especially women, children and persons with disabilities have been virtually excluded from accessing COVID-19 safety information” says Dr Adebukola Adebayo, from the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD). “This is due to issues like poor disability-sensitivity by the media”.
The Lafiya team therefore undertook a series of activities to build the capacity of media professionals to understand and pay attention to issues relating to disability. This would help educate policy-makers and the general public on the importance of not leaving out people with disabilities.
In Lagos, the Lafiya COVID-19 Advocacy and Accountability team supported the CSO coalitions to organise a training for media professionals involved in the COVID-19 response. This helped them understand the significant role the media plays in effective and inclusive COVID-19 messaging.
This training which was themed “Gender and Social Inclusion in the COVID-19 response” had sessions on disability and COVID-19 management, gender and social inclusion, as well as framing messages for the media.
In Kano, CSOs, with support from Lafiya, identified that the media didn’t have capacity to raise these issues during daily and periodic COVID-19 briefings, especially when the government was giving information on the daily COVID-19 infection rates.
CSOs therefore came together to donate eight hours of free airtime (across five radio stations and one TV station) from its media members to the state technical response team. This helped to engage the public on facts about COVID-19, while demystifying rumours with a focus on gender equity and social inclusion.
- Over 1-million-naira equivalent of airtime was donated by Kano CSOs in January 2021
- Over 2.5 million people living in Kano have been reached with non-pharmaceutical COVID-19 information.
- 44 media organisations in Lagos State have been trained on inclusive gender and social inclusion reporting for COVID-19. These include print, TV, radio, social and online media platforms. Journalists immediately put the training into practise, reporting the content on their platforms.
By engaging with the media, CSOs, with support from Lafiya, have supported the State government’s efforts to debunk the myth that COVID -9 is a hoax and to ensure that the public embraces all COVID-19 guidelines.
The Lafiya programme will continue to support the media to provide important information to the public on the risks associated with COVID-19, as well as providing information to the public on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccination.
The UK Support to Health in Nigeria, Lafiya is the UK’s flagship health programme in Nigeria. Through targeted support at both Federal and State levels (Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano and Yobe) Lafiya seeks to improve health outcomes for the poorest and most vulnerable in Nigeria by working with the Government of Nigeria (GoN) to increase resources invested in health; improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public and private basic health services and increase the modern contraceptive prevalence rate.
From April 2020 to March 2021, Lafiya pivoted to support the GoN’s COVID-19 response through a broad package of support across the five targeted states and three additional states – Lagos, Katsina and Zamfara.