By Sunday Ofili Ibobor, Umuebu Neighborhood House (UNH), Umuebu, Delta State, Nigeria
The first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID 19) was reported on 27 February 2020. Nigeria was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to report a confirmed case of the COVID-19. In the last week of May, 2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that the coronavirus has infected almost 9000 persons and killed at least 249 persons, while at least 2,385 persons recovered from the virus.
There are two major schools of thought on the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria. One position is the there is coronavirus in Nigeria. This is the position of the government. The other school of thought is that there is no coronavirus in Nigeria. This is the position of some people in Nigeria. They argue that there is a rat race among the states in Nigeria to outdo one another in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus because any state with a confirmed case of COVID 19 is entitled to $1.5bn from the World Bank. These persons also argue that they only hear of the increasing number of infected persons without seeing the victims. In-between, these different opinions, there are several fake news on the internet and social media platforms about the prevention and treatment of coronavirus in Nigeria. In order to contain and control the transmission of the coronavirus, the government recommended different forms of lockdown. From the beginning, some states went on partial lockdown while a few went on total lockdown. Schools, offices, markets are closed. This has created a lot of hardships for residents in Nigeria. Although the government attempted to support the vulnerable with palliatives, it failed to reach all the vulnerable in Nigeria.
In response to the challenge of fake news about COVID 19 in Nigeria, Umuebu Neighborhood House (UNH) set up a WhatsApp platform: Umuebu News. Through the News Platform, UNH provides timely and accurate information about COVID 19 to the community. With the help of some social work volunteers, from the University of Benin, UNH is engaging in fundraising to provide palliatives for the elderly and widows in and around our Benin City, Lagos and Umuebu Centers. Umuebu Neighborhood House is also serving as a source of information for community members in the diaspora. This helped them to organize their palliatives to support the community. By doing this, UNH is promoting and reconstructing social capital in the community. Social capital in this context is a protective factor for psychological health in the community. Through this social capital project, UNH seeks to provide all the sources with which Umuebu can evaluate and improve its health and prosperity. To accomplish this project, UHN set up two other WhatsApp platforms: Umuebu Health Committee and Umuebu Health Steering Committee.