Aliyu Mande, health information officer at Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital, Zaria (Nigeria), replied to some questions about the COVID-19 management in his country with a focus on Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) patients. The interview is in the context of the FGB activities within the ARISE project. Aliyu, involved in the staff exchange program foreseen within the project, spent some time at FGB in Bari and is committed to implement in Nigeria communication and dissemination activities on SCD.

What kind of communication/informative activities are used in Nigeria to inform the citizens about the spread of the virus and the preventive measures to be adopted?

“Awareness campaigns on Coronavirus and its prevention have been mounted in different languages in all the media houses in the country, both public and private organizations.” he adds “…moreover, printing of information, education and communication materials with pictures and other illustrations have been produced”.

Regarding the preventive measures adopted, Aliyu confirms that prevention and control committees on Coronavirus at federal, states and local levels have been set up.

In the rural areas, where the problems are more stringent, there are health care providers at primary health centres, health clinics and health posts that have been strengthened with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How is the health emergency managed in these areas?

“The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is making announcements in the radio, television and other media channels, every day on regular basis and most of the urban and rural people listen and follow the rules on the use of personal protective equipment, other preventive measures as well as the use of specific contact phone numbers in case of emergency”

What are the main issues you find regarding this situation and what kind of contribution would be needed from the international community?

“Despite the productions and supplies of personal protective equipment by government, international organizations, individuals and companies, to health professionals and citizens across the country, there is still an high demand of protective equipment especially face masks, hand gloves and gowns for health providers..” he says “...furthermore, people are experiencing shortage of food and other goods due to lockdown”. Aliyu concludes that considering these needs, the international community might give its support by providing with drugs and protective equipment for public and hospital use as well as share experience on how patients are handled and treated during the pandemic.

What is the impact of COVID-19 on patients affected by SCD in your country? Any specific measures have been adopted to support them and ensure the needed treatments?

“COVID-19 is causing a series of constraints related to the SCD patients and their care. As a matter of fact, routine clinics have been suspended and long follow up dates have been given to most patients with particular reference to blood transfusions. This has impact on the usual health care checks and counselling/education sessions for SCD patients.”

Aliyu explains that some patients are afraid of attending emergency wards in case of emergency as it is likely to have contact with COVID-19 patients. Moreover, their routine medicines supplies are out of stock and the healthcare workers are also rationed on shift to limit their exposure to COVID-19 patients.

One of the issues underlined by Aliyu is the lack of information and guidelines specifically related with SCD and COVID-19.

To manage the current emergency some measures have been adopted including the phone consultations, generic prescriptions for patients at reception desks, SCD support organizations assisted in encouraging and accompanying patients to hospitals, and also arranging blood donations and mobilized donations for drugs.

You can find more detailed information about the Nigerian situation here.

Thanks to Aliyu for his relevant contribution!

Stay tuned for further updates!

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