The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, has been strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly. The multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has since activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures. “I wish to assure all Nigerians that have we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case. “We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria. Please be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses. All Nigerians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following the precautions below: 1. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 2. Maintain at least 1 & half metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. 3. Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay home or keep a social distance, but not mix in crowd. 4. Make sure you and people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. 5. Stay home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call NCDC toll free number which is available day and night, for guidance- 0800-970000-10. Do not engage in self-medication 6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health. Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic. The Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria,” announced Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Hon. Minister of Health. As at the time of filing this article, over 9,000 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, over 3,000 cases have been discharged and about 300 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory, having carried out 48,544 tests. AKWA IBOM COVID-19 INDEX CASES -Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialty Hospital. As at April 1, 2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 5 cases of the disease in Akwa Ibom State, and Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was one of the cases. Dr Asuquo, in his detailed account after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo, said he received a call immediately from the state COVID-19 team to get set that an ambulance would be coming to pick him. Different thoughts went through his mind: his dear wife, children, and when he saw how others in different parts of the world were passing away, he thought his end was near! At the isolation centre, Dr Asuquo said he enjoyed his stay because of the privacy, the modern facilities, and equipment at the hospital. “You don't know what is happening and who is in the next room. Constant water and light, it's like having the U.S. in Akwa Ibom,” he said in a video chat. He added that he was surprised to know that all the rooms there are equipped with Television sets (with DSTV) and that there's free WIFI for browsing the Internet, which made him stay updated and worked on his personal project. Although he was silent on the treatment he received that led to his recovery in less than two weeks, he was thankful to the state government for a job well done. “I want to give kudos to the Akwa Ibom State Government because I know without them, this wouldn't have been possible and also for the [COVID-19] team.” Akwa Ibom State so far has 35 active cases of the disease, with 2 deaths and 14 recoveries of which Dr Asuquo is one of them.
With a staggering figure of 218,020 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom State, the people of the state sure have reasons to be bothered. With this figure, the Nigerian HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) has in its latest report published in March, 2019, declared Akwa Ibom as the state with the highest prevalence rate of people living with HIV AIDS in Nigeria.
While many argued that the figure is nothing but alarming, a lot more said the rating was rather political and not worth bothering over.
However, lots of institutions, agencies and non-governmental organizations had swung into action to re-awaken campaigns to fight the dreaded virus, which has caused monumental damages to the socio-economic life of the people.
One of such institutions is the Applicants Welfare and Development Centre (AWANDEC) which has on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 organized a one-day special conference to address the challenges of development in the face of reported HIV/AIDS prevalence in the state.
HIV/AIDS is predominantly a sexually transmitted disease that targets and alters the body’s immune system, thereby increasing the risk of contracting other infections and diseases. Over the years, the virus has challenged the productive part of our population and has in no small measure rendered ineffective those infected with the virus, as it poses a huge burden to the health system.
It was the recognition of this threat that gave room for the enlightenment campaign at Barth Ebong Hall, located within the Annex Campus of the University of Uyo. Resource persons including Prof. Ambily Etekpe used the avenue to enlighten the participants of the dangers of unruly behaviours which can predispose them to HIV/AIDS.
The Professor of Political Science who lectures at the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State, beckoned on citizens to exhibit attitudinal change as a panacea to the spread of the virus in the state and beyond.
Resource persons at the event which attracted dignitaries from the state and beyond maintained that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom in particular and the country at large has impacted negatively on the economic fortunes of the people, hence the need for collective efforts to fight the dreaded virus.
Prof. Etekpe who was the keynote speaker, had dealt on central theme bordering on the challenges and negative impact the virus has on Nigerians and people in the sub-saharan region. He implored stakeholders to build a strategic plan to stop the spread of the virus.
Speaking on the topic: “HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and the Challenges of Productivity in Akwa Ibom State”, Etekpe made reference to statistics from NAIIS which indicates that about 1.9 million Nigerians are currently living with the virus, out of which Akwa Ibom accounts for about 218,020 cases, representing 5.5 percent of persons living HIV in Nigeria.
By this figure, Akwa Ibom is presently the state with the highest number of people with HIV/AIDS prevalence in Nigeria, followed by Benue State with about 5.3%, thereby compromising with the people’s level of productivity.
Mrs. Bernadette Ekanem who spoke on The Challenges of Food Security in Akwa Ibom State, explained that the economic fortunes of the state will be affected given the proportion of adults infected with the virus, adding that the situation, if not controlled, could cause food insecurity. Ekanem who is one of the directors in the centre, appealed to youths in the state to be creative and useful to themselves rather than indulge in acts capable of jeopardizing their future.
The challenge of HIV/AIDS in Akwa Ibom State and The Role of Private Medical Practitioners and The Way Out by Dr. E.S. Udiminue, The Role and Strategies of Development Partners in Saving the Lives of Akwa Ibom Children from the Stronghold of HIV/AIDS by Mrs. Uduak Umoh were among other papers presented at the event.
The event equally provided organizers, the opportunity to honour individuals and heads of organizations that have contributed meaningfully to advancement of humanity and the society at large.
Applauding management of Applicants Welfare and Development Centre (AWANDEC), Pastor Nicholas Ekarika who chaired the event called on the public to imbibe biblical ethics and live by the dictates of their Creator as a panacea to AIDS, among other diseases plaguing the people.
Welcoming the guests, the Executive Chairman of AWANDEC, Dr. Ekanem Inyang said the enlightenment seminar was meant to reawaken the campaign against the prevalence of AIDS as well as seek collaborative efforts to combat the virus.
He advocated for enhanced funding and renewed vigour from relevant agencies to check the burden that HIV/AIDS has placed on the society.
Some of those honoured for contributing meaningfully to the welfare of orphans and vulnerable children in the state were Obong Akpan Ned Udom, a politician from Etinan L.G.A., Dr. Roberta Edem, a one-time Secretary of Uyo L.G.A., Bishop Andrew Uwnata, Chairman, State Assembly Service Commission and Mrs. Bernadette Udoekwere, the Desk Officer in-charge of OVC in the state Ministry of Women Affairs.