“I doubted the reality of COVID-19 until I found myself struggling for breadth”
“I was among those who thought and touted that COVID-19 is a scam by government to embezzle money. But now I know better."
Hassan Alhaji Gado, from Gwange 3 Ward in Maiduguri Municipal Council (MMC), Borno state, is a 26-year old Nigerian youth who had plans for himself and his family, until COVID-19 pandemic struck and put all plans in abeyance.
As the virus spread and the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with development partners, responded, misinformation and fake news started circulating in the public space, especially in the social media. Notable in the widespread misinformation was the reference to COVID-19 as being non-existent, and a scam being perpetrated by the government. This dangerous narrative about a public health emergency of COVID-19 devastation, became an ‘infodemic’ obstructing effective response to COVID-19 pandemic.
Just as many Nigerian youths bought into the fake news, Hassan also questioned the existence of COVID-19 and believed it was a scam to embezzle money. However, the turning point came when he fell sick and presented symptoms such as shortness of breath, headache and high fever. He got tested and his COVID-19 test returned positive.
“Honestly, I doubted the reality of COVID-19 until I found myself struggling for breadth, headache and high fever.” Hassan said at the launch of “COVID-19 Heroes Campaign”, organised by WHO in collaboration with partners, to recognize and designate COVID-19 survivors as heroes and heroines , as part of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Borno State, north-east Nigeria.
Hassan acknowledged that he once held the belief that COVID-19 was a scam: “I was among those who thought and touted that COVID-19 is a scam by government to embezzle money. But now I know better. Thank God I survived it after 18 days at the Abba Kyari isolation centre. Alhamdulillahi”. He said gleefully at the launch of the campaign in Maiduguri on 29 May 2020.
The Borno state Deputy Governor and Chairman of the State Task Force on COVID-19 Response, Alhaji Usman Umar Kadafur, said at the launch that the campaign aimed to demystify and de-stigmatize COVID-19 survivors by declaring them heroes and heroines of a disease that has claimed many lives in Borno.
“You have become the beacon of truth that COVID-19 is real. You have become the symbol of hope that COVID-19 can be survived even as the preventive vaccine is underway. You have proved that our isolation centres are active and functional. You have defeated COVID-19. For that, I declare you “Heroes and Heroines”. Congratulations.” The Deputy Governor declared.
Dr Musa Audu the WHO State Coordinator in Borno, reiterated WHO’s commitment to supporting the state to rapidly control the COVID-19 outbreak which has already affected eight Local Government Areas (LGAs).
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 response in Borno state, WHO has built the capacity of more than 1000 healthcare workers including medical doctors, pharmacists, epidemiologists, nurses, health education officers and community health extension workers,” Dr. Audu added.
Borno state is at the centre of a decade-old insurgency in north-east Nigeria which has claimed several lives and displaced millions of people internally.