It is becoming evident that the COVID-19 pandemic will linger much longer than was earlier anticipated. While the vulnerabilities identified have been related to biological factors like older age and concurrent medical illnesses, social vulnerabilities also make an impact.
Little emphasized are the conditions of shelter, and low socio-economic status as contributory vulnerabilities influencing protection negatively. This was made clear as Dr. Matshidiso Moeti Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa, identified internally displaced persons and refugees being challenged in implementing the necessary personal protection against COVID-19 yesterday. These individuals are vulnerable, often living in crowded conditions, including camps and urban slums.
According to the WHO regional Office for Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 26% of the global refugee population. This is in addition to over 19 million people who are internally displaced within the region. Nigeria accounts for about 10% of the burden of internally displaced persons in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is with the UNHCR, reporting over 2 million internally displaced persons particularly in North-East Nigeria.
Social vulnerabilities are important as the risk of COVID-19 transmission from over-crowding in particular is high.
This is in light of the statement made by Chikwe Ihekweazu, head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control at the bi-weekly press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. He said “Over the past few weeks, increasing evidence has emerged that in addition to droplet infections, we cannot rule out that airborne transmission is also possible as a mode of transmission of COVID-19.”
While the fight to mitigate community transmission in Nigeria continues, these populations must not be ignored. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti in her statement, advocated that countries and partners implement the UN Security Council resolution on COVID-19. There is a strong need to address the present crisis by also focusing on this population, by not just meeting their needs but addressing violence and conflict that perpetuates displacement.