By Dr. Abubakar Alkali, firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming at a time of the global health emergency, the fingers are pointing towards the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the Tudun Wada cemetery in Sokoto, there are reports of over 100 bodies brought for burial in one single day. The situation in Sokoto is so tense that residents of Sokoto in particular and the entire state in general are now living in a very tensed and palpable atmosphere. This otherwise peaceful and ‘healthy’ state is now engulfed in an extended health emergency further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Something more than COVID-19 is happening in Sokoto.
The ongoing extended health emergency in Sokoto can be likened to the ongoing case of mass deaths in Kano which started a few weeks ago. One thing the two states share in common at the moment is the very high temperature leading to often times unbearable heat wave. There are also reports of these mass deaths in Kano and Sokoto involving diabetic patients and very old people. There has yet not been any direct link between the mass deaths in Kano and Sokoto to COVID-19.
In this regard, there is the urgent need for the appropriate authorities particularly the national centre for disease control (NCDC) to embark on an immediate fact-finding mission to Sokoto with a view to not only ascertaining the extent of this situation but also applying measures as necessary.
Although most of the deaths recorded are those of the aged elderly indigenes of the state, there are also cases of middle aged and the not-so-old. One such case was the death of a professor at the Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto (UDUS) who died recently. Although the deceased is said to be diabetic, his death has not been confirmed to be from COVID-19 infection.
It is advisable that the Sokoto state government comes open on the true situation on the ground in Sokoto just as the Kano state government did.
Sokoto state government needs to seek help from the federal government so that it could increase its capacity to contain the situation.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state have jumped from zero in the last three weeks to 54 and rising as at today 3rd May 2020.
It is imperative to note that a full blown escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sokoto state will be unthinkable as the state lacks even the most elementary medical capacity to contain even the most basic health cases.
There is virtually no health care system in Sokoto state to respond to COVID-19 hence the state government had resorted to ‘public awareness and sensitisation’ as its best method to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
While other states such as Cross Rivers (with no reported case of COVID-19 so far) and Ondo are producing face masks locally, our dear Sokoto state government is resorting to ‘public awareness’.
Everything humanly possible must be done to stop the COVID-19 pandemic from reaching the grassroots local communities in Sokoto state and the rest of the country. The grassroots communities in Sokoto are too weak to manage any further spread of COVID-19 pandemic coupled with a non-existent health care system and ravaging debilitating unbearable endemic poverty in the state.
The Sokoto state government needs to upgrade its measures aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
In particular, there is the urgent need to impose a total lockdown of Sokoto city until the current situation of mass deaths is fully assessed by the NCDC and other relevant authorities. Appropriate palliatives should also be made available and the right steps put in place to ensure that these palliatives get to the poorest of the poor. Currently, the lockdown and restriction order in Sokoto state is majorly confined to inter-state travels. This lockdown order should be extended to the interior communities particularly in Sokoto city.
There is also the need for Sokoto state to start local production of face masks and make them available to the local village grassroots communities. Face masks should get to even the remotest part of the state.
Wearing of face masks should be made compulsory in public places until this health emergency is brought under control.
The state government should also invest in the local production of ventilators by the local engineers, fabricators and also at the Usmanu Danfodio university (UDUS) and other relevant tertiary institutions in the state. Bayero university Kano (BUK) is standing up to be counted in the fight against COVID-19 as it has locally produced a ventilator. This is a huge achievement
As a matter of fact, there are local engineers and fabricators in the state particularly the fabricators in Kara area Sokoto who, given the right support and encouragement can produce ventilators which can be certified fit for purpose by the appropriate medical experts including the NCDC.
Our dear Sokoto state is in a race against time unless something is done by medical experts and the relevant authorities to bring the current extended health emergency in the state under control.