The recent outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country has created fear, panic and uncertainty occasioned by misinformation among citizenry. This, no doubt necessitated the need for different stakeholders to provide adequate enlightenment on the scourge. Ochiaka Ugwu writes on recent NAWOJ (FCT) Chapter’s sensitization on Ebola scourge.
Since Ebola came into the country through a Liberian American national, the Late Mr. Patrick Sawyer, most Nigerians have been living in fear of the dreaded virus which took its toll in some parts of the nation. The fear was compounded by the fact that the virus has no known cure and to many, it is a death sentence.
It was against this backdrop that National Association for Women Journalists (NAWOJ) went all out to create the necessary awareness that will rekindle the hope of Nigerians that after all the virus is not a dead sentence and can be curtailed through being careful.
The group in their message told the traders at Utako market that although the virus has no known cure or vaccine, but said it has shown it doesn’t have to be a death sentence if treated early. They admonished the traders to be watchful as early detection will always help in stopping the spread urging them to observe all preventive measures like constant washing of hands with running water, maintaining clean environment, living healthy, staying away from an infected person, avoiding bush meat, and having close contact with fruit bats.
They gave symptoms of Ebola as persisted fever, high body temperature which may nearly 40C (104 degrees Fahrenheit), diarrhoea, vomits, dysentery and hiccups, tiredness and uncomfortable.
On why they are embarking on the awareness and sensitization rally, FCT, Chairperson of the association and host of the event, Felicia Chukwurah said there was need to mobilize everyone, educate them and increase the awareness on Ebola as it is the key in stopping the dangerous disease.
“Everyone should be mobilized. We need to educate people and increase the sensitization. This is the key to stop the dangerous disease Ebola”.
She said that many people have already died, but could have lived if they were privy to the information concerning the prevention, noting that they were embarking in the sensitisation to educate people. She urged people to report immediately to the authority when they notice anything Ebola like or go to the isolation and treatment centres if they experience the earliest symptoms of the disease, to increase their chance of being cured and surviving.
“Many people have already died, that is why we are educating our people. I urge people to go to the isolation and treatment centres if they experience the earliest symptoms of the disease, to increase their chance of being cured and surviving”.
Chukwurah said that everybody has a valuable role to play in dispelling myths and in gaining support in the fight against Ebola.
“Some people still have not accepted that Ebola is real. While many fear the unknown, some are now becoming aware of the disease through sensitisation being done by good spirited Nigerians and the government at all levels.
Continuing, Chukwura said that sensitization and mobilisation is a vital part of the Ebola response and these to her will help Nigerians to accept that Ebola is a serious illness that they must fight together.
She thanked the federal government and the federal capital administration for their effort in curbing the Ebola scourge. She said they reminded Nigerians of hope and survival in an otherwise deeply tragic situation.
The social activist informed that the organisation will continue to support vital social mobilization and communication efforts to ensure that people are correctly informed. Messages about prevention, how to identify symptoms and how to seek medical support are critical.
She however, revealed that very soon they will back the activity up with their 25th anniversary saying that it was one of the activities lined up for anniversary.
“We will back it up with our anniversary and this is one of the activities we have lined up for the 25th anniversary. So what we are doing here now is sensitizing the public on Ebola, on the need for personal hygiene, general hygiene and environmental hygiene. I know that most times, when issues like this come up, people normally apply the fire brigade approach and now go back, so we do not want them to do that, we still want to jump into their minds, into their heart, their whole body to know that there is always a price for self hygiene and that price is very positive.
“We are talking about a healthy nation you cannot separate wealth from health, it is when one is healthy that he can think of wealth; we also want to align with the federal government for containing Ebola. I want to let you know that in two days time, Nigeria will be given certificate for her effort and very important role they played in containing this disease that would have killed a lot of people, a lot of Nigerians.
“So, we still want to let them still be conscious and let them know what to do, you can see what I am wearing now (pointing at the Ebola awareness poster) it’s like a cloth on me so we want to let them know that you do not wait for something to come up before you now apply your measures; they say prevention is better than cure.
on whether their action was not belated given the fact the virus has been there for over four months, she stated that no time is late as it is a topical issue informing that anything concerning health is viral that has its line up like cholera, laser fever.
“You know this is a topical issue, anything concerning health, is viral, it has in its group cholera, laser fever, so we felt that this is the right time since two days from now Nigeria will be certified an Ebola free nation, so we would want something that would make us not to get the certificate, a lot of people are looking up to Nigeria to know the ways and measures we put in place to contain this”.
On why they choose Utako market, Chukwurah said that Utako became the preferred choice owing to its strategic nature and role market play in bringing people together in any given society.
“There is whole lot of activities in the market, people are coming to buy, people are selling and so you would find out that there is a whole lot of shuffling, movement, body contact and if one can contract this by touching, I think the market is a very good place to start off”.
On their plans to reach the people in rural areas who may not to have heard about the dreaded virus, the NAWOJ FCT leader said they are about doing that after the Utako market sensitization.
“Definitely, we will get to the rural area, we are in F.C.T here, and we are on ground. So, there is no way we can remove the rural areas from what we are doing, it would not be the first and it will not be the last. It is going to be continues.
Talking more on their 25th anniversary, she revealed that they have a lot of activities to mark the event.
“We had a workshop last week on effective communication, reason, we really have to make it right, dot the I’s and cross the T’s very well. We are journalists, we are communicators, so we have to be seen doing the right thing as in getting the stories from source, remember we are gate keepers and gate keeping starts from reporters. So that is what we are doing now and a day before yesterday, there was a lecture also in honour of Mrs. Onyeche there at Barcelona hotel. We will be moving to Abeokuta were we will have other activities and grand finale.
Speaking to Peoples Daily on the awareness, the FCT Financial Secretary of NAWOJ, Sandra Udeike said that sensitization was not belated owing to the fact that the virus came in through an outsider which means that the nation is at risk as it can happen again.
“You may think it’s too late but it’s not. The reason is because in the first place Ebola came in from an outsider, from a Liberian that means it can also happen again. So, we need to be prepared even though the Ministry of Health has declared that Nigeria is Ebola free, we cannot sit down and fold our hands. This disease is deadly and it spreads fast anytime it enters any country, that is why we most to keep sensitizing those that do not know how to go about it.
“To sensitize them on the need for continues good hygiene, washing your hands consistently, often, it will help you. Even if the Ebola comes in, it will not spread but if people are not aware, that means they can eat food in the market, collect okpa, collect biscuit and eat when they have not washed their hands and this helps Ebola to spread. So the reason we are doing it now, is not that it’s out of place, is not, it is still to keep the sensitization so that Nigerians will remain free of Ebola.
On when they plan to go to rural areas of the capital territory, Udeike notified that it will be sooner than one expected saying that their aim was to sensitize the people in the market first and move to other places later on.
“We are just starting, this is a starting point. It does not end here; it will definitely not end here. We intend moving to rural areas, but we have to start somewhere and we choose the market. Market is where many people, even from the rural areas come to buy and sell, and that is why we choose the market. So, we will still have that rural area in focus.
On their next line of action after the sensitization, the Enugu State born media practitioner promised that the organisation will not relent on its oars towards sensitizing Nigerians on the Ebola scourge which is reigning havoc in most West African countries.
“Like I said, we will move from one place to the other and the major aim is to sensitize the public, especially women because when you educate a woman you have educated the society. So, we will move to places of interest where they buy and sell like this, to the villages, churches and the rest of them” she said.
A trader, Mallam Suleiman Mohammed who said he has never heard about the ravaging Ebola scourge thanked NAWOJ for educating him on the prevention which he said is better than cure. He promised to take the good news to his village for strategic planning on how to give the virus a bloody nose each time they notice it.
However, Ebola has no known cure or preventative vaccine – with a 50-90% case fatality rate. It spreads through contact with body fluids of infected people who have symptoms of the illness or through animal carriers like fruit bats, primates, antelopes and porcupine. Cases that report early to treatment centres have a greater chance of survival.