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The Nigerian Government, OneUN, which includes UNFPA,  and development partners, are scaling up risk communication about the Covid-19 virus to the general public. Increasing knowledge about the seriousness of the potential consequences of the pandemic on the economy, including preventive and treatment measures and essential health care, can greatly limit its transmission and negative impact in a country that is already having severe humanitarian and healthcare vulnerabilities.     

Coronavirus is changing the world in unprecedented ways and the United Nations Country Group is working to ensure that the support given to the government and its people is in line with standards of safety, dignity and human right approaches. From Programmes implementation within the lock-down to maintaining virtual communication, UN teams at country, regional, HQ and inter-agency level continue to work under Business Continuity plans (BCP) that safeguard the lives of staff and ensure continuity of essential UNFPA programmes for mothers and girls. Under the new work process, which moved from levels 1-3 in some state offices, essential staff maintain a minimal office presence and non-essential staff members work from home. 

Abuja, April 2- At the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) - As Nigerians stockpile basic supplies, and schools, including programmes and movement within inter-city locations are facing lockdown amid corona virus-fears, states were asked to create  "shelter-in-place" to accommodate any number of victims. 

As the tension increase, many have gone to their rural areas just to be with their loved ones. Meanwhile, the social media platforms are trending with all kinds of messages, including humorous ones that give a comical angle to reports about rising numbers of those infected with the Covid-19 virus.

Meetings with units, my Representative Ms Ulla E. Mueller called on all staff to remain conscious about the guidelines and take the pandemic serious. There were also discussions on how the OneUN system could support the government at this time, including the added value of UNFPA across support activities and which UNFPA activities could be retained, in line with the agency’s support to vulnerable women and adolescents, if the pandemic gets worse. 

UNFPA is ready to play our role and to support in ensuring the public safety of all through functional health systems.

So far, there have been pre-positioning of Reproductive Health (RH) kits and lifesaving commodities to the UNFPA-supported humanitarian hub in the North East- a necessary practice as supply chains undergo strains during periods of pandemic response. This has been reinforced with airing of radio jingles in local languages across six states with a population of over 60 million people. Adaptation of messages from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which covered UNFPA’s areas of responsibility and mandate, and those of other agencies was conducted for easier dissemination under the umbrella of one UN.

 Here in the Abuja the security operatives remain busy ensuring civilians respect the recommendations for social distancing by ensuring market places are shut down-an intervention aimed at slowing down human transmission of the Corona-19 virus. 

I saw this young lady and a local preacher passing negative messages via Whatsapp. And this should not be allowed, it is time to communicate strongly and using all channels to get people to appreciate the magnitude of the virus called COVID19 ’. 

With all the virtual meetings on covid19, it was agreed that we must intensify with our messages and target those in rural areas on COVID-19 and its prevention based on WHO scripted messages.

So far, more cities and villages are facing an imminent lockdown, as the numbers of positive cases are on the increase.  Although infectious-disease Centers were opened, and the NCDC has continued information sharing for preventing and limiting the spread of Covid-19, rural communities could eventually prove to be the most vulnerable to the pandemic, in part due to their difficulties in accessing essential healthcare. Despite restrictions, we are ever ready as UNFPA to play our role and to support in ensuring the public safety of all through functional health systems. 

These will not only guarantee an end to Covid-19, but will ensure the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls are respected. These outcomes are consistent with the three transformative results of the UNFPA, and the UN’s Agenda 2030 for a decade of action, leaving no one behind.