Half of Benue state not yet sensitized on COVID-19

A coalition of 54 civil society organizations working in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in Nigeria’s Benue state is calling on the government to step-up efforts to build public understanding of covid-19 in the state’s rural and hard-to-reach areas.


Innovative handwashing facility in Nigeria
Innovative facilities like these are helping to promote hand hygiene
Innovative handwashing facility in Nigeria
Innovative facilities like these are helping to promote hand hygiene

The group, known as CSO-B, is one of the government’s leading humanitarian response partners at the forefront of crisis prevention, management and post-rehabilitation efforts in Benue, particularly among vulnerable groups during epidemics.

Since the index case of COVID-19 was reported in Benue on March 28, COVID-19 interventions in the state have yet to reach half of the population, according to a CSO-B report documenting the coalition’s activities.

“Benue has an estimated population of 6 million people and, with the interventions so far, not half of the population has been reached. Not everyone has access to radio and most live in hard-to-reach areas. The sensitization needs to be taken further,” the report says.

Benue is a focal state for RUSHPIN – the  Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria  Programme  – which is funded by the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and is being implemented in collaboration with local stakeholders such as CSO-B members.  

During the two months of its COVID-19 intervention, CSO-B’s efforts centered on creating awareness of coronavirus, preventive measures, and the need to adhere to good personal hygiene, with an emphasis on handwashing, strategically targeting religious institutions, markets, motor parks, rural and hard-to-reach communities.

“The aim is to ensure that the appropriate information gets to everybody so that prompt action will be taken by all to curtail the virus spread in the state,” a summary of the group’s activities emphasized.

CSO-B operated a situation room responsible for the collection and documentation of confirmed COVID-19 cases, interventions, and information on COVID-19 in the state, says Ms. Elizabeth Jeiyol, the Executive Director of the Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI), one of the member organizations in the coalition.

Ms. Dorcas Iorkusa, Executive Director of the Gender and Community Empowerment Initiative,  has collaborated with the WSSCC in a number of programmes. She says that working in partnership with other colleagues in the CSO-B coalition lends more support to COVID-19 advocacy in the state.

It was important for my organisation to join the coalition because working as a group made us reach out to more people than we would have done working alone. It also gave us a stronger voice and a wider reach in terms of service delivery and more efficient use of resources.  Our desired output was achieved,” she said.

Asked about the response of the residents to the coalition, Ms. Iorkusa said, “Yes, they were receptive, the response was huge. We combined the COVID-19 sensitization with distribution of handwashing stations, face masks and demonstration of proper handwashing technique.”

While commending efforts of the coalition, Ms. Iorkusa urged the government to provide adequate financing for WASH sector players.

“Government should provide counterpart funding to partners working in the WASH sector in order for them to implement Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS), so as to ensure a clean and better Nigeria,” she said.

Government should also provide equipment and sanitation facilities in public places.”