To date, Niger has recorded almost 1,000 cases of Covid-19 and over 60 deaths. The first case was officially reported on 19th March in the capital city, Niamey. Many of the cases in Niger are believed to have come from across the borders from neighbouring countries like Nigeria. As a result, borders have been closed and local restrictions have been put in place.
The Challenges in Niger
Niger, like many of the countries in the region, has a weak health system. There are only 20 ventilators available for a population of over 22 million. The country also suffers from other diseases such as cholera, widespread food insecurity and malnutrition, and a large proportion of the population lacks access to basic water and sanitation facilities.
Niger is considered one of the poorest countries on earth. It is estimated that 15% of children in the country are acutely malnourished. The average life expectancy is just 62, one of the lowest in the world. The statistics are examples of how vulnerable Niger’s population is to a disease like Covid-19.
GOAL’s response has focused on remote information campaigns, a Community-Led Action approach, Cash transfers to help the most vulnerable and adapting our existing programs to the changing environment within which we operate.
With limited healthcare facilities, the best method of protecting vulnerable communities from Covid-19 is disease prevention. GOAL is supporting the broadcasting of COVID-19 messaging via community radios in our five operational areas, Ouallam (Tillabery region) and four districts in the Zinder Region namely Mirriah, Goure, Tanout and Belbedji. These community radio campaigns involve the broadcasting of messages three times a day. To date, an estimated 651 000 people have been reached, while community mobilisers have reached a further 21,351 people through the CLA (Community led Action) approach.
GOAL is also providing support to community mobilisers in all our operational areas. Specifically, we have supported the Community Mobilisers with cash and covered airtime communications costs to enable them to communicate with GOAL Supervisors.
Additionally, GOAL has distributed Covid-19 health information posters in local language to community mobilisers and health facilities.
Community Led Action (CLA) in Niger
Building on GOAL’s experience during the Ebola response in West Africa, the GOAL Niger team is putting the Community Led Action (CLA) approach at the centre of its COVID-19 response, facilitating local engagement with vulnerable groups around the risks of COVID-19. GOAL has engaged with the Regional Public Health Office of Zinder, local authorities, district administrations and community leaders to share information on our CLA approach. With their permission and assistance, we are rolling out the CLA approach at community level and develop infection prevention and control measures. GOAL is also training 136 community mobilisers to further disseminate prevention messaging within the community.
An essential part of this programme has been the distribution of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to vulnerable communities. To date we have distributed over 10,000 units of soap to over 1,000 people, and hygiene and medical equipment to 20 healthcare facilities. The procurement of these materials has been assisted by funding from Irish Aid.
Hamza Alassan– protecting his family and community from COVID-19
Hamza, (68), lives in Majema village in the Mirriah District in the Zinder Region with his wife and 13 children. Like many in his village, Hamza is a farmer but also operates a tannery. Hamza is keen to protect his large family from COVID-19.
Majema village is home to 64 families, and is located just 5km from Mirriah where a number of cases of Covid-19 have been documented.
GOAL has trained Hamza and his family in infection prevention control, funded by Irish Aid. The training was conducted in his local language, Mura Chako. As a result of this programme Hamza has been appointed as a community mobiliser in his neighborhood. Along with other local mobilisers, they have developed a specific disease prevention plan for their community including encouraging social distancing, hand hygiene and limiting travel outside the village.
As part of the Community-Led Action approach, emphasis is placed on putting the local community at the centre of leading out on disease prevention, and this is proving effective.
Hamza said: “To date, zero cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in our village even though there are many cases in Zinder and Mirriah towns not far from here.”