A REFLECTION ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC: ITS IMPACT ON THE PEOPLE’S WELL-BEING IN EDO STATE, NIGERIA
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Jos
The world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and Edo State is no exception to this. Edo State is situated in the southern zone of Nigeria and has its capital as Benin City with a population of about 3,233,366[i]. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many existing problems within the state which has significantly affected the wellbeing of the people.
This article explores how the response to COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the overall wellbeing of the people in Edo State. As the general wellbeing of people is vital to understanding the impact of the response of the state to this pandemic, the concept of wellbeing is used in providing a nuanced understanding to this pandemic. The concept of wellbeing is used to mean the quality of life, state of happiness, fulfilment, state of being healthy and contentment[ii].
In Edo State, the wellbeing of the people is badly hit by the response to COVD-19 pandemic. This is because efforts made by the government at controlling the spread of the virus in order to abate a health crisis and maintain a healthy society have been considerably beset with challenges. Ways in which the government have responded to contending health crises in the state in addition to how the state response has affected the quality of life, state of being healthy, happiness or level of contentment is discussed below.
On the 23rd of March 2020 the first index case of the COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed by the Chief Medical Director of Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital[iii]. On the confirmation of the index case, the state governor embarked on a series of actions by inaugurating a COVID-19 response team, creating awareness, contact tracing of those who had just returned from overseas trips, establishing of isolation centres, testing centres, training of health workers, screening and providing prompt treatment[iv]. This was to avert a spike in the number of cases within the state.
However, with serious concern of the rising number of COVID-19 cases and in order to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in Edo State, further precautionary measures were taken by the state government. These include: a ten days’ dusk-to-dawn curfew on the residents with effect from April 20, 2020; state – prohibiting movement of people in Edo State from 7pm to 6pm (this to be reviewed after 10 days); compulsory use of face mask in public; no gathering of more than 20 persons; and all markets in Edo State were to be shut for 14 days so they could be fumigated and sanitized. Furthermore, sellers of essential commodities like food were to be relocated to nearest open spaces to enable them sell their wares while observing social distancing regulations, ban on street trading and the provision of palliatives for those most vulnerable in the society and all business and houses must have hand washing equipment and sanitizers amongst others[v]. This was done to reduce the spike in the number of cases in the state.
Although measures taken by the state authorities to impose a partial lockdown than a total lockdown was to ensure the economy of the state was not totally shut down in order not to worsen the quality of life (wellbeing) of the people especially the poor, vulnerable and the less privileged ones in the society. However, this gesture by the state on insisting on a curfew rather than a total lockdown had significant impact on the residents. The relocation of markets to nearby open spaces further violated the law of social distancing as markets were overcrowded and people just went about their businesses without any form of caution for safety. By this action the health of people were compromised and inevitably their overall wellbeing were affected for example, there were more infections, loss of means of livelihoods and fatalities in the state[vi].
Furthermore, these restrictive measures as detailed above created several negative impacts within the state such as hunger, loss of jobs for those in private organisation, robberies, health issues amongst others. Therefore, in reflecting on how the wellbeing of people were affected, this meant that a larger number of people in Edo State who relied on daily income with no savings to act as an economic cushion during the stay at home orders became susceptible. This created more challenges for the people because of their inability to do businesses, trade or render services within the state, so when the people cannot meaningfully pursue their goals and be satisfied with their way of life then the level of satisfaction derived by the people within their community becomes grossly inadequate[vii]. Consequently, most household heads found it difficult to provide food for their families and this shaped their quality of life or their state of contentment within the state. So, many defied government orders and because they did not want to die of hunger as no adequate palliative were provided by the Nigerian government as promised as by the government as only a few residents received the palliatives. Also because the state had no data base on those who are gainfully employed in the state, it was difficult to ascertain those who truly required these palliatives in additions sharing of palliatives to the vulnerable became politicized and beset with corrupt practices as only those who had links with politicians whether vulnerable or not received the palliatives.
The immediate effect of the partial lockdown had direct impact on the wellbeing through sudden loss of jobs especially those who were engaged in informal businesses/services such as trading, barbing, sewing, welding etc.as people were scared of contracting the virus, businesses suffered low patronage and this affected their level of income generation. Moreover, the wellbeing of the people were affected by the fear of the COVID-19 virus itself, some families had someone who had contracted the COVID-19 virus, such were hospitalised, relatives could not visit their loved ones in hospital and in effect they felt unhappy, inadequate and unsatisfied with their quality of life. Also the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the people’s wellbeing as their daily living was compromised, as it completely altered the way people lived and did things on a daily basis.
Again, worthy of note is that the owners of the transport industry within the state suffered as vehicle drivers who flouted government guidelines of conveying a certain number of persons in their vehicle and the compulsory use of facemask were convicted for violating the Edo State Dangerous Infectious Diseases Prevention Regulations, put in place by the government to curtail the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state[viii]. They were sentenced to between two to three days community service of two to three hours each to clear grasses or asked to pay a fine of between 2000-5000 Naira ($5.17-12.92[ix]). The payment of fines and other measures meant that the people were not happy, had to go through physical stress to meet the demands of the fines and as result the people’s level of wellbeing were substantially impacted. Residents would not have flouted these regulations if certain monetary palliatives were given to them to meet up their financial demands however as discussed earlier lack of a coherent database, political and corrupt practices had direct effect on who received the palliatives.
Finally the pandemic globally and within Edo State has revealed some weaknesses that may be worthy of future research. One substantial way COVID-19 pandemic has been handled is the measures taken by various government to curb the spread of the virus within their respective state. Nevertheless, it is worthy of note that despite the stay at home orders or lockdowns the spread of COVID-19 cases continues to increase which has mitigated the wellbeing of the people in Edo state. One strength of the COVID 19 pandemic was that it enabled government to see the lapses in the health facilities within Edo State in Nigeria with a view to improving it. Future research questions to be explored are: how the countries in the global south and north have assessed the pandemic; lessons learnt from the pandemic and tensions arising from the spread of this virus; and its effect on the built environment.
[i] National Population Commission. (2006). National Population Census. Abuja, Nigeria : National Population Commission.
[ii] Chandrasekhar.S., & Mukhopadhyay. A (2012). Multiple Dimensions Of Urban Well-Being, Asian Population Studies, 8 (2), 173-186, DOI: 10.1080/17441730.2012.684537
[iii] Bello U, A. (2020, March 25), Covid-19: Edo speaker tests positive- Official Daily Trust. Retrieved from https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/covid-19-edo-speaker-tests-positive.html
[iv] Obaseki, G.N. (2020, March, 31), Broadcast by the Executive Governor of Edo State, His Excellency Mr Gowin Nogheghase Obaseki, Chairman of Edo State Task Force on Covid19, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria
[v] Momoh, I.U (2020, APRIL 19). Covid-19: Obaseki imposes 10-Day Dusk-to-Dawn Curfew in Edo. Retrieved from https://businessday.ng/coronavirus/article/covid-19-obaseki-imposes-10-day-dusk-to-dawn-curfew-in-edo/amp/
[vi] The Nation, (2020). COVID-19: Edo govt. calls for caution as cases rise to 1,562 with 57 deaths. Available at online https://thenationonlineng.net/covid-19-edo-govt-calls-for-caution-as-cases-rise-to-1562-with-57-deaths/
[vii] Armitage, D., Béné, C., Charles, A. T., Johnson, D., & Allison, E. H. (2012). The Interplay of Well-Being and Resilience in Applying a Social–Ecological Perspective. Ecology and Society, 17(4), 15.
[viii] Vanguard, (2020). Court convicts 16 persons in Edo for violating COVID-19 preventive guidelines. Available at online https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/06/court-convicts-16-persons-in-edo-for-violating-covid-19-preventive-guidelines/
[ix] 1 USD = 386.911 Naira
No 12 – This blog article is written under the auspices of the British Academy supported Critical Thinking and Writing Workshop for Urban Studies Researchers in Nigeria.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development or the University of Lagos, Nigeria.