In a time of crisis, it is often necessary for people to take on things they never would have expected to have to do. As COVID-19 has overwhelmed the medical system, a group of volunteers is undertaking the task of slowing the disease’s spread within communities, where misinformation is everywhere and good advice can be tough to find.
Twenty-six-year-old Wasiu, of Epe Local Government Area (LGA) in Lagos State, is one of those trying to make a difference. He was one of 1,028 volunteers from across Lagos at a recent contact training programme held at ita-Marun Epe. There, volunteers learned how to identify symptoms, collect data, and refer identified persons for testing, infection prevention and control. They were also trained in standard precautions for contact tracing.
“Contact tracing training has developed my ability to investigate and identify those who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive or a confirmed patient, in order to prevent onward transmission,” says Wasiu.
Lagos was the site of the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Nigeria on 27 February 2020, and since then the state has been the epicenter for the disease in the country, accounting for about one third of all confirmed cases.
But along with the disease itself has come a wave of myths, misinformation and fake news leading to mistrust among citizens, health authorities and government across Lagos as around the world. This has made bringing information to people’s front doors crucial to slowing COVID-19’s spread.
Volunteers were drawn from each ward within the LGAs, with a minimum of three volunteers per ward in the Epe LGA. Volunteers were either born in or lived within the ward they represent, thus making them familiar with culture, local language and living conditions of people in the community.
Trained contact tracing volunteers were equipped with the ability to communicate the right information on COVID-19 at the community level, especially on the importance of hand hygiene and washing, using face masks and social distancing. The trainers, supported by federal, state and local government resources, used the train-the-trainer model with volunteers at the national and sub-national levels.