Home Op-Ed Let’s Combine Social-Distancing with Hunger Narrowing, By Dr. Chris Ikeanyi

Let’s Combine Social-Distancing with Hunger Narrowing, By Dr. Chris Ikeanyi


“Wash your hands, wash them regularly for 20 seconds with lots of water and soap. With what do you expect me to wash my hands? With my saliva? Pure water is sold for N200 (Naira, is the local Nigerian currency), and we are locked up at home unable to go out to earn a living.”


The above constitute the barrage of complaints coming from Nigeria as masses observed the stay-at-home order imposed by various levels of governments without commensurate provisions to feed citizens who have been deprived the opportunities to make a living.


Social-distancing has been proven to be one of the most effective deterrents to the spread of COVID-19, but social-distancing should not include financial-distancing because people whose livelihood depend on earning a living outside their homes must be cared for. While many other countries are providing funds, foods, and basic needs to their citizens during the lockdown, the federal government and many states in Nigeria arelagging behindwith the provisions of these basic needs.


The average household size in Nigeria is 5.0 persons. This number is slightly higher in rural areas than in urban area. It is also higher in the north than in the south. Many Nigerian families earn their living by engaging in a variety of businesses outside their homes. It is everyone to himself as governments provide little or no basic amenities. This means that many children, their mothers, and the elderly who depend on those who must go out to earn a living are struggling with basic feeding. In words of one elderly woman who survived the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, “if this type of hunger continues for a few more weeks, we will begin to witness the return of kwashiorkor and malnutrition among the children.”


Based on the information above, it is about time the federal government of Nigeria and many states begin to engage in hunger narrowing to ensure that people who survive COVID-19 may not end up dying of hunger.They must also take serious actions to fight against price gouging and hoarding of essential commodities to guarantee their affordability, particularly by over sixty percent of the masses who cannot afford up to two meals per day.


“My concern now is to find enough food to eat and you are asking about children’s education. If a child has no food and water, how can they possible learn?”


The above was the stern response I received when I inquired about the education of my nephews who attend secondary schools in Nigeria.


Provisions must be made to ensure that students who survive COVID-19 will still have the capacity to continue with their learning without significant regression or gaps in their learning. For all students, consistency is key to effective teaching and learning. With schools’ closure across the entire nation of Nigeria, there is little or no continuity in the education of children.


Before COVID-19, many Nigerian students lose a significant amount of learning due to work-stoppages or strike by teachers and lecturers. The Strike situation in Nigerian schoolshas become a norm and the current shutdown of schools has led to additional loss of learning for the students. Research shows that students, particularly those in elementary and secondary schools, who miss up to 30% of school time will be unable to succeed at the next grade level.


To bridge the learning gaps for students, Nigeria technology industry must step up and play a leading role. Nigeria has become a key producer of technology in the world with the establishment of computer villages in major cities of the country. During this time of COVID-19 pandemic, the technology providers in the country need to rise to the need by working with federal and state ministries of education to transition to long distance or remote learning platforms to enable students continue with their learning.


Finally, I wish to commend various state governments including Anambra State, who have done a good job of providing food stuff to their citizens. However, this step in the right direction needs to be sustained by providing more funds to enable people to buy enough pure water and soap they need to wash their hands regularly as demanded by the same governments.


Bottom line, let’s combine social-distancing with economic narrowing of the wealth gap between rich and the poor, the haves and have not,in order to lessen the hardship of COVID-19 lockdown on Nigerians.


Dr. Chris Ikeanyi writes from Los Angeles, California

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