Information and news about nigeria

The EndSARS Movement in NigeriaSocial media is becoming a diversified platform that has been vital to the fight against police brutality in Nigeria. Nigerian citizens have experienced years of unjust violence by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), including armed robberies, rapes, torture and unsystematic killings. For Nigerian citizens, media censorship on television has led to the circulation of the hashtag #EndSARS on social media sites. People have taken to Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok and other platforms to post news and videos of the violence incurred. Through the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria, young Nigerian activists are emerging and are critical to the new wave of international awareness.

What is SARS?

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police force, was assembled in 1992 by the Nigerian Government to cope with the failings of the Nigerian Police Force. Emboldened by their power to arrest and monitor crimes, the group has increasingly used its authority to engage in dangerous tactics and fear-mongering.

Among protests and complaints, Amnesty International has investigated and determined numerous unlawful killings and human rights abuses. 2015 marked the first set of promises, made by Nigerian President Buhari, to disband and restructure SARS. However, after years of promising reform to appease citizens, the government has not implemented any effective actions to deter the unit.

SARS has promoted corruption and violence toward citizens, especially against an evolving population of youth. There are many reports of youth being harassed by SARS for their new technology, clothing styles, hairstyles and tattoos. In protest, Nigeria’s youth have been leaders and catalysts in organizing the #EndSARS movement. A viral video in December 2017 depicted a murder committed by SARS, and since then youth have consistently used social media to document violence done by SARS. A revival of the hashtag #EndSARS occurred in October 2020 and has created a resurgence of conversation about the issue.

Leading the International Awareness of SARS

With a limitation on media coverage of protests and SARS criticism, Nigerians have taken to social media to spread the message. Protestors have created a unified voice among supporters without endorsing an individual leader of the movement. Private citizens with their phones are the main information source and record first-hand videos of the violence. For example, an Instagram Live of protestors being shot and wounded by Nigerian military officials garnered global media coverage. The shift from traditional media to social media has been an advantage to the #EndSARS movement.

The grassroots movement has diverted from the repressive Nigerian media and toward an inclusive citizen-led campaign online. Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok are serving as major platforms for Nigerians to organize protests, volunteer and donate. Twitter users offered to pay phone bills of protestors to continue the spread of information online. Other protestors began crowdfunding donations to supply food to protestors, posting specific details relating to peaceful protests or sharing medical aid, legal aid and mental health hotlines. The variety of evidence and resources circulating on social media has bolstered the international podium of #EndSARS.

The turmoil of police brutality in Nigeria has been fiercely combatted by a new generation of youth activists. Social media has ignited an international drive to end the corruption of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Tangible change is coming about with protests and aid spread globally on social media. The Nigerian youth are using technology to their advantage and are moving to end a period of instability through the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria.

– Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Africa
As the fourth largest export in the world, cocoa production has been a part of the global market ever since its introduction to Nigeria in 1984. Many big brand chocolate and ice cream companies such as Mars, Hershey and Snickers are dependent on this market, though much of the revenue does not go towards cocoa farmers or workers. In 2014, chocolate sales reached up to $100 billion, yet cocoa farmers were living off a wage of $1.25 per day. Here is some information about cocoa farmers in Africa and how Ben & Jerry’s supports them.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farming

With rising demands for cocoa production and insufficient compensation, cocoa farmers in Africa are less reluctant to discontinue the use of child labor. A study from the University of Chicago reported that about 1.6 million children work in cocoa farms, mostly found in Ghana and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)—the two largest cocoa production sites. Ghana and Ivory Coast occupy two-thirds of the world’s cocoa bean production, both of which exploit poor children as young as 5-years-old that need to support their families.

Despite the slowed rates of child labor in Africa’s cocoa production, farmers and working children struggle to maintain any comfortable income to support themselves. Cocoa trees take years to cultivate and harvest, which is too time-consuming for a volatile and unreliable market price. Nongovernmental organizations that strive to end child labor in Africa speculate that the cocoa farmer’s insufficient income stems from supply chains. Although programs are in place to reduce child labor and raise farmers in the supply chain to be self-sufficient, cocoa production does not yield enough to combat poverty among the farmers and workers in the industry.

Ben & Jerry’s and Fairtrade

On Nov. 17, 2020, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand released a statement that announced its commitment to paying a livable wage to the cocoa farmers in Africa. In partnership with Fairtrade, Ben & Jerry’s plans to allocate funds towards Fairtrade’s Premiums, which are supplemental bonuses that farmers receive for quality work. With extra funding, cocoa farmers have been able to build health facilities and install essential services such as a water pump or solar panels.

Fairtrade also released its new mission statement to provide a livable income for its workers in the cocoa sector. By focusing on multidimensional poverty alleviation for cocoa workers, Fairtrade plans to allocate funds to implement assistant programs, make partnerships to push for sustainability, and push for policies to protect small stakeholders in poverty. By collaborating with Ben & Jerry’s, both brands guarantee financial support towards the 168,000 cocoa farmers abiding by environmentally-friendly structures and producing quality ingredients.

Looking Forward

Ben & Jerry’s continues to promote Fairtrade and the push for liveable wages in Ivory Coast and Ghana’s cocoa bean plantations. In its recent statement, it announced, “As part of our new price commitment for the cocoa we will work with Fairtrade to evaluate and be sure we are making a positive difference for farmers.” By marking its Fairtrade partnership on cocoa-based ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie will now be a reminder that consumers are supporting businesses in Africa.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

CCT Programs in NigeriaDespite having some of the greatest potential for development in Africa and a vast amount of resources, Nigeria remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the years, the Nigerian Government has attempted to implement various poverty alleviation strategies in order to diminish poverty. Unfortunately, little progress has been made. However, more recently, the Nigerian Government has started implementing a new strategy in order to fight the persistent poverty in the country through Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programs. It is hopeful that CCT programs in Nigeria will bring lasting benefits for impoverished communities.

The Success Rates of CCT Programs

Around the world, CCT programs have become increasingly popular and have been overwhelmingly successful. Positive results have also been seen in certain regions in Africa. As explained by the World Bank, “Cash transfers targeted to the poor, particularly children and other vulnerable groups, now help millions of Africans to support their basic consumption, avoid destitution and respond to shocks.” To achieve this success, most programs focus efforts toward providing cash transfers to poor families with children. In return for these transfers, families must maintain their children’s school attendance as well as keep up with regular health checkups. As a result, the country profits through an increase in the value of its human capital.

The COPE CCT Program

Beginning in 2007, the Nigerian Government implemented the In Care of the People (COPE) CCT program, which at the time was the only nationwide government-sponsored CCT program. The program was launched across 12 Nigerian states and aimed to break intergeneration poverty through cash transfers with the conditions that households maintained their children’s school attendance of at least 80% and receive regular immunizations and healthcare visits.

In the development of COPE, one of the main goals that the Nigerian Government was hoping to achieve was to reduce poverty short-term and promote an increase in the value of human capital in the long-term. Although many Nigerian citizens benefited from the CCT program, there were complications in the execution of the program. One key example that is necessary for the program to succeed is to extend the length of time in which households participate in the program. When first implemented, the program only lasted a year for participating families. However, in order to effectively assist these households, it is important that the Nigerian Government expand the period of time in which families can benefit from the cash transfers.

The Kano State CCT Program

While the COPE CCT program was designed to impact different states across Nigeria, the Kano CCT program took a different approach. The Kano State government implemented a pilot of this CCT program from 2010 to 2012 in order to increase female school attendance and reduce female drop-out rates in the specific region.

Although the COPE CCT program did not have overwhelming success, the Kano CCT program did see some success. For example, data from the World Bank shows that the number of girls enrolled in school slightly increased from 47% in 2009 to 50%  in 2011. However, there were also unexpected decreases in rates despite the CCT program. In Kano, in 2009, 47% of girls enrolled in class one enrolled in class six in, while in 2011, only 41% of those enrolled in class one were in class six.

Regardless of conflicting outcomes, the World Bank still rates the program’s efficiency as substantial. In Kano, the savings from the CCT program were also spent on the construction of additional boreholes and toilets in the schools.

Although the program itself still needs further development, the Kano CCT program has the potential to benefit households living in poverty as well as further improve female education attendance and drop-out rates.

The Potential of CCT Programs in Nigeria

Although these CCT programs still need improvement with regard to execution and development, the programs show great promise in reducing poverty rates, breaking intergeneration cycles of poverty and increasing the value of human capital in Nigeria. This is especially hopeful considering the success of the programs in other African countries. Because these programs target the health and education of youth living in poverty, these strategies help to create a strong foundation for children, thus creating a path for them to escape poverty in the future. With continued efforts to improve and develop these CCT programs in Nigeria, there is potential to greatly expand and improve Nigeria’s economy over time and reduce poverty in the region.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Gender inequality in Nigeria'sEvery day the world becomes more dependant on computers. In the modern era, impoverished communities often lack access to technology. Therefore, technology is inaccessible in many developing countries. However, Nigeria finds itself in a unique position; the country’s ICT (information and communication technologies) sector has grown significantly since the early 2000s. In fact, Nigeria hosts “Africa’s biggest technology market and accounts for 23% of internet users in Africa with 122 million people online in December 2018.” Unfortunately, there is gender inequality in Nigeria’s tech industry and in many other countries around the globe.

Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin 

Nigeria’s technology industry has brought much wealth to the country. But, it is important to consider the demographics of this innovative sector. According to the Women’s Technology Empowerment Center, Nigeria has a sizable gender gap. The technology sector, in particular, does not employ many women. “According to the National Bureau of Statistics, women make up on average just 22% of the total number of engineering and technology university graduates each year.” Similarly, a fifth of the people working in the information and technology sector are women. Thankfully, some women, including Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, have taken it upon themselves to solve gender inequality in Nigeria’s tech industry.

Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin leads the fight to close the gender gap in Nigeria’s technology sector. Ajayi-Akinfolarin was born in Akure, Nigeria. She attended the Nigerian School of Information Technology and the University of Lagos, where she received her BSc in Business administration. Ajayi-Akinfolarin began her professional career as an intern for E.D.P. Audit and Security Associates where she eventually became an associate consultant. During her time there, Ajayi-Akinfolarin became aware of the huge gender gap in the information and technology sector; thus, Ajayi-Akinfolarin refocused her career.

Pearls Africa

In 2012, Ajayi-Akinfolarin founded Pearls Africa, an NGO that provides young women with the resources to pursue a career in STEM. For Ajayi-Akinfolarin, taking this step meant leaving a comfortable career. However, she believes fighting for her community is more important; “We want girls to be creators of tech, not mere users. Watching them write code is beautiful. Many of them never touched a computer before they got here. It’s mind-blowing. The joy on their faces, that’s more than money.”

While Pearls Africa is intended for women pursuing STEM, their overarching goal is to improve lives by reducing poverty. Along with teaching STEM, Pearls Africa teaches women about “ethics, leadership skills, self-empowerment/development, confidence, public speaking, and self-esteem, which leads to economic independence.”

Pearls Africa deserves praise not for their goals, mission or philosophy, but for their achievements. Since 2012, “the organization has trained over 400 young women to code.” They offer eight additional programs that offer different services as well. Some of these programs focus on women’s empowerment, developing leadership skills in young women. Meanwhile, other programs offer aid. For example, Pearls Africa’s medical outreach program provides free health care assistance in Lagos, Nigeria.

Recognition

Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin recognizes that technology is here to stay. Her foundation’s work to empower young women with tech access and skills is beyond remarkable. Unsurprisingly, Ajayi-Akinfolarin has received multiple awards in recognition of her work. In 2018, she was recognized as Woman of the Year by the ONE Campaign, and “she was named one of the 10 CNN Heroes of The Year.”  Organizations like Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s must be supported in their fight to bring opportunities to impoverished communities. Hopefully, Ajayi-Akinfolarin will continue to have success and inspire women to fight gender inequality in Nigeria’s tech industry as well as the global industry.

Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

Teachers in NigeriaWhile Nigeria’s population makes up only 2.8% of the world, 20% of the children not in school live in Nigeria. Education in Nigeria is especially lacking in the northern states, where more than 50% of the children are not in school. Although education is supposedly free and mandatory, the Nigerian government has long failed to provide its citizens with the tools to improve their education. The president of the country has recently made a commitment to prioritize teachers in Nigeria.

Unrest in the North Affects Schools

The northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, have been victims of significant violence from the Boko Haram insurgency, a terrorist group whose name translates to ‘Western Education is Forbidden.’ Currently, 800 schools in this region are closed and 500 more have been destroyed due to conflict. Furthermore, less than 50% of girls in the north are in school due to cultural practices and attitudes discouraging girls from receiving an education.

The Link Between Poverty, Population & Education

The lack of education in Nigeria has deep effects on the nation’s present condition and future direction. There is a close correlation between girls receiving less education and fertility rates soaring. In 2018, Nigeria’s total fertility rate was 5.4 children per woman. This rate is far higher than the global average of 2.5 and above the sub-Saharan African average of 4.7. Consequently, Nigeria is one of the most rapidly growing countries in the world, with a population of about 200 million people and an average age of 18. Furthermore, the population is projected to double to more than 400 million by 2050.

Although Nigeria is Africa’s biggest exporter of oil, its economy’s growth rate has stagnated since oil prices collapsed five years ago. In developing countries, when population growth overtakes economic growth, resources become scarce and the people suffer. Nigeria’s population growth rate of 2.6% is outpacing its economic growth rate of 2%, thus further perpetuating the already widespread poverty. In 2019, 82 million Nigerians lived below the poverty line.

A Commitment to Education in Nigeria

While past Nigerian leadership has failed to emphasize education or recognize it as a means to reduce poverty and provide opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari has signaled a commitment to establishing education as the backbone of society and prioritize teachers in Nigeria. In order to strengthen education in Nigeria, the government has committed to guaranteeing employment for students graduating with a Bachelor’s of Education. President Buhari underlined the need to incentivize students to become teachers by providing fiscal stability to the profession. He believes that this will attract a higher quality and quantity of teachers, which will in turn improve the system as a whole.

Additionally, these graduates will receive a university stipend and a special teacher’s salary. The retirement age and duration of service will both be extended by five years as well. The effects of Nigeria’s new commitment to prioritize teachers in Nigeria and education remain to be seen but certainly is a step in the right direction for the country to progress out of poverty.

Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Northern NigeriaNorthern parts of Nigeria have become the epicenter of brutal and violent attacks carried about by the notorious militant ISIS group, Boko Haram. Many victims are left with painfully traumatic memories that develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Functioning normally is impossible for those affected by PTSD and northeast Nigeria only has a single mental health institute. Nonprofits advocating for mental health in northern Nigeria have taken to Twitter and other forms of social media to provide guidance and healing to help bridge the gap.

Mental Health in Northern Nigeria

The treatment of mental illness and the ability to treat different disorders varies from country to country. In Nigeria, three of every 10 people suffer from mental illness. Constant disruptive violence weighs heavily on the psyche and with northern Nigeria becoming known as “Boko Haram’s Den” it is not surprising that a single facility cannot handle the number of people in need. Out of every 100,000 people, 17 of them commit suicide in Nigeria, ranking the country seventh in Africa for suicide.

The NEEM Foundation

Founded in 2017, the NEEM Foundation’s primary focus is to pave the road for mental health in Nigeria to improve, with free treatments primarily centering on victims of Boko Haram.

NEEM’s plan of action has been to send counselors and psychiatrists out on small motorized bikes to aid families affected by the terrorist group. These volunteers are also sent to families and individuals who escaped the group after being forced to join. The people that are lucky enough to escape from forced involvement submerge back into society without mental health check-ins or assessments, making them a possible danger to themselves or others. Mental health in Nigeria as a whole is not given enough funding to offer these services, despite the severity.

Last year alone, NEEM and its team of experts were able to provide care for 7,000 patients. Its work is primarily focused on children suffering from trauma due to the terrorist group, by setting up group therapy sessions for children and youth to attend. To boost available counselors, NEEM founded a nine-month training program in Maiduguri where college graduates of science or lay counselors are trained to become child psychologists. Adding more trained counselors and psychologists furthers NEEM’s reach and ability to give the mental healthcare needed by victims in Nigeria.

Moving Help Online

In total, the country of Nigeria only has eight mental health facilities, leaving a lot of ground to be covered by nonprofits like NEEM. The organization Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) is using WhatsApp and Twitter in order to reach as many Nigerians in crises as possible and provide free mental health first aid.

Mental health in northern Nigeria is a problem that grows with its population of victims and refugees. By using free social media platforms in lieu of physical counseling, organizations are able to extend their reach to those in need.

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr

ColdHubsIn sub-Saharan countries, post-harvest crop loss is so high that nearly 50% of fresh food never reaches consumers. These losses not only diminish the economic potential of the agricultural industry, but they also aggravate food insecurity, malnourishment and stunting in young children. In turn, poor nourishment decreases productivity in individuals, which is reflected by a 2% to 3% loss in GDP. So far, many countries lack a solution to this serious problem. This is where Nigerian company ColdHubs comes in.

Post-Harvest Losses

The main culprit in post-harvest losses is spoilage, the natural process of decay and deterioration characteristic to perishable food items. While reduced temperatures can slow the pace of spoilage, sub-Saharan countries lack ample access to chilled storage spaces for produce. The small-scale farmers of sub-Saharan Africa who lack such storage face both financial and infrastructural barriers. While 62% of farmers cannot afford cooling technology, 36% do not have access to power in the first place.

In Nigeria, agriculture accounts for 22% of GDP and employs 36% of Nigerians. Nearly 90% of these Nigerians are small, family farmers. Yet large quantities of post-harvest losses pose a tremendous hurdle to their economic progress. For instance, Nigeria is home to the largest tomato production belt in West Africa. However, nearly half of the crop of tomatoes spoils each year. As of 2017, post-harvest losses in Nigeria cost up to $9 billion dollars annually. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in Nigeria are food insecure. Two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and 45% of all child deaths are due to malnutrition.

Cabbage in Nigeria: A Case Study

One company is working to make a dent in those statistics. In 2013, a radio journalist specializing in agricultural news was following the journey of cabbage from farms to markets in Jos, Nigeria. What the journalist, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, hadn’t anticipated addressing was the story of the cabbage post-market. Farmers abandoned the cabbage that didn’t sell, leaving edible food to rot. Ikegwuonu tracked down the farmers, asking why they had left the cabbage and how to avoid such a situation.

In a recent interview with The Borgen Project, Ikegwuonu recounted, “They actually told me that if there was a form of storage inside the market, that it would be very useful to them to actually store their produce and then come back in the next week to pick up their produce [for sale] when there is less cabbage in that market.” It was this moment that inspired Ikegwuonu to develop ColdHubs. The idea: 100% solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms for food storage, installed in Nigerian markets and farms.

How ColdHubs Helps

The ColdHubs business model is simple. Farmers store perishable items in reusable crates provided by ColdHubs, using a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription. The crates then go into a ColdHub refrigerated room powered by solar panels. Each unit features enough solar panels to generate six kilowatts of energy every hour. However, the cold room itself uses up only 1.5 to 2 kilowatts per hour. This surplus allows for refrigeration to continue to run on rainy or cloudy days.

For a daily flat fee per crate stored, the solar-powered system allows farmers access to 24/7 chilled storage that operates entirely off the grid. This storage extends the shelf life of perishable foods from two days to 21 days. Importantly, this leads to an 80% reduction in post-harvest loss and a 25% increase in smallholder farmer income. For the 24 ColdHubs presently in use, some 3,517 smallholder farmers use the service. So far, ColdHubs has saved more than 20,000 tons of food from spoilage. Another 30 ColdHubs are currently under varying stages of construction. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have 50 ColdHubs fully operational throughout Nigeria.

Supporting Women and Farmers

ColdHubs looks not only to serve economic and renewable ends, but social ones as well. ColdHubs aims to employ women for its management and oversight operations. Thus far, the organization has created new jobs for 48 women. Additionally, ColdHubs is careful to maintain an affordable model ultimately aimed to support farmers over increasing profit.

“We designed Cold Hubs from a smallholder farmer from our perspective. I’m a smallholder farmer myself. The design was specifically suited so that the technology and service would be affordable,” Ikegwuonu explained. This manifests in the pay-as-you store model, as opposed to selling cold rooms outright. “We actually take up the risk of building in a cold room, and in three to four years we recover on that capital expenditure. It’s a slow, philanthropic process.”

Why It Matters Now

The proliferation of ColdHubs throughout Nigeria comes at a crucial moment, as farming seasons become more and more volatile. With prolonged heatwaves and an increasingly erratic rainy season, rain-reliant smallholder farmers struggle to raise  crops, predict growing seasons, and sell food before it rots.

“Once you harvest tomatoes, you have approximately 48 hours to sell it. With increased heat, it has actually reduced now to about 32 hours to sell that tomato.” Ikegwuonu added. With climate change in mind, ColdHubs operates with as much attention to its own climate footprint as possible. In addition to being entirely solar-powered, the cold rooms also use natural refrigerants. This reduces their contribution to atmospheric pollution.

Since approximately 54% of the working population in the continent of Africa relies on agriculture for income, ColdHubs could be a lifeline in the fight against hunger. The organization intends to bring its technology into other regions of Africa. As in Nigeria, it hopes to uplift smallholder farmers. “The future for us is to be running close to 10,000 ColdHubs in about five to 10 years, all across Africa,” Ikegwuonu shared. Once ColdHubs spreads throughout Africa, he hopes to bring the technology to developing countries across the globe.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Feed the Future Program in Nigeria 
Nigeria is a nation burdened with poverty and an unemployment rate of about 50% for Nigerians under 25-years old. It also relies heavily on agriculture in its economy as this employs about 75%of people in the country. The U.S. Feed the Future program began with the mission to help those in economic need meet their hunger needs on an international level. This article will discuss how the Feed the Future program in Nigeria is making an impact on the nation.

Feed the Future

Launched in 2010, Feed the Future is a U.S. government program aiming to combat global hunger and ensure food security, worldwide. The program focuses mainly on its partnerships with the nations it works in and innovative solutions to work towards its goal. The program is currently focusing its efforts in 12 nations. This ensures the organization can properly allocate the money to be as efficient as possible. Overall, between 2011 and 2018, the program has spent more than 3 billion dollars to fund its mission.

Feed the Future Program Impact in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the few nations Feed the Future focuses its initiatives on. The  program partners with Nigeria’s agricultural fund and supplies it with about 20 million dollars a year. These funds go towards improving Nigeria’s agricultural sector and proving economic help to create food security.

The Feed the Future program utilizes innovation to solve hunger. In 2018 alone, the organization had 38,000 people applying new practices to Nigeria’s agriculture sector. These innovations improved approximately 26,000 hectares of land throughout the same year. On top of these innovations, the program improves economic conditions by uplifting business development organizations in agribusiness. In this same vein, these efforts invest in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, directly.

As a result of the Feed the Future program, 79,000 children under the age of five received assistance regarding their nutrition needs in 2018. However, the Feed the Future program does more than just solve the problem; the organization creates a sustainable cycle to relieve the issue. For instance, in 2018, Feed the Future educated 236,000 individuals in nutritional, professional training to multiply the impact of relief.

Feed the Future in Nigeria: Outlook

The Feed the Future program’s success has been noticed as there is still a great amount of support for it. Thus, in 2018, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act was signed to ensure the continuation of the program through 2023.

However, despite the success, there are still changes occurring with the program. For instance, the Center for Strategic & International Studies recommends that the future of the Feed the Future program should shift focus “to strengthen resilience across all zones of influence”.  There is also a push for the program to make itself more sustainable. This is so that fragile areas will continue to show success in the program.

In the coming years, the Feed the Future program and its investments are expected to make major impacts in Nigeria. The Center for Strategic & International Studies anticipates the program to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural finance and investments. This funding will cause more innovation and more people to be food secure.

In the past decade, the Feed the Future program has become a major success that has drawn many people into a more stable future. The program’s future is secured until at least 2023 with recommended adjustments being taken into account to ensure the program’s efficiency.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

covid-19 in africa

On a world map of the distribution of COVID-19 cases, the situation looks pretty optimistic for Africa. While parts of Europe, Asia and the United States have a dark color, indicating relatively high infection rates, most African countries are light in comparison. This has created uncertainty over whether the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is as severe as other continents.

Lack of Testing

A closer look at the areas boasting lighter colors reveals that the situation in Africa is just as obscure as the faded shades that color its countries. In Africa, dark colors indicating high infection rates only mark cities and urban locationsoften the only places where testing is available.

Although insufficient testing has been a problem for countries all over the world, testing numbers are strikingly low in Africa. The U.S. completes 249 tests per 100,000 people per day. In contrast, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, only executes one test per 100,000 people daily. While 6.92% of tests come back positive in the United States, 15.85% are positive in Nigeria. Importantly, Nigeria is one of the best African countries for testing: it carried out 80% of the total number of tests in Africa.

As a continent housing 1.2 billion individuals of the world’s population, Africa is struggling to quantify the impact of COVID-19 without additional testing. To improve these circumstances, the African CDC has set a goal of increasing testing by 1% per month. Realizing the impossibility of reliable testing, countries like Uganda have managed to slow the virus’ spread by imposing strict lockdown measures. As a result, the percentage of positive cases in Uganda was only 0.78% as of Sept. 1, 2020.

A Young Population

COVID-19 in Africa has had a lower fatality rate than any other continent. In fact, many speculate that fatality rates may even be lower than reported. Immunologists in Malawi found that 12% of asymptomatic healthcare workers had the virus at some point. The researchers compared their data with other countries and estimated that death rates were eight times lower than expected.

The most likely reason for the low fatality rate in Africa is its young population. Only 3% of Africans are above 65, compared with 6% in South Asia and 17% in Europe. Researchers are investigating other explanations such as possible immunity to certain variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and higher vitamin D levels due to greater sunlight exposure.

Weak Healthcare Systems

Despite these factors, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is likely high. Under-reporting and under-equipped hospitals unprepared to handle surges in cases may contribute to unreliable figures. In South Sudan, there were only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 12 million. Accounting for 23% of the world’s diseases and only 1% of global public health expenditure, Africa’s healthcare system was already strained.

Healthcare workers are at the highest risk of infection in every country. In Africa, the shortage of masks and other equipment increases the infection rate among healthcare workers even further. Africa also has the lowest physician-to-patient ratio in the world. As it can take weeks to recover from COVID-19, the infection and subsequent recovery times for healthcare workers imply that fewer are available to work. Thus, COVID-19 in Africa further exacerbates its healthcare shortage.

Additionally, individuals who are at-risk or uninsured can rarely afford life-saving treatment in Africa. For example, a drug called remdesivir showed promising results in treating COVID-19. However, the cost of treatment with remdesivir is $3120. While this is a manageable price for insurance-covered Americans, it is not affordable for the majority of Africans. Poverty therefore has the potential to increase the severity of COVID-19 in Africa.

Economic and Psychological Factors

Strict lockdowns have helped some nations control the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, but at a heavy price. A general lack of technology means that, following widespread school shutdowns, students have stopped learning. Many adults have also lost their jobs. More than 3 million South Africans have become unemployed due to the lockdown.

Furthermore, the lockdowns have also resulted in much higher rates of domestic violence, abuse and child marriage. Many such cases are unreported, meaning that the real scope of the problem is probably larger. Mental health services for victims or those struggling through the pandemic are also often unavailable. In Kenya, the United Nations has appealed for $4 million to support those affected by gender-based violence.

The slow spread of COVID-19 in Africa has allowed the continent and its leaders to prepare. Importantly, its young population will lessen the severity of the virus’ impact. Although these circumstances provide reasons to be hopeful, there is no doubt that Africa’s economy and future will suffer from the virus. This potential highlights the need for foreign assistance not only in controlling COVID-19 in Africa but in the continent’s recovery for years to come.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Nigeria
Healthcare in Nigeria leaves a lot for people to desire. The system is inefficient and inequitable, although there are some stories of success. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Nigeria.

8 Facts About Healthcare in Nigeria

  1. Prior to the European colonization of Nigeria, the healthcare system consisted entirely of herbal medicine treatments. This system relied on the knowledge of practitioners and a strict apprenticeship program. Understanding the background of Nigerian healthcare is an important prerequisite for assessing the modern system.
  2. After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, the country put a radical new healthcare system in place. Primarily a welfare-based system, it was progressive for its time. The government offered free or heavily subsidized treatments and medicines. However, the subsequent downturn in oil prices destroyed this system. Augmented by political corruption, the government could not afford to continue subsidizing healthcare.
  3. Currently, Nigeria’s healthcare system ranks among the lowest in the world. A study from 2018 in the Lancet of Global Health Care Access and Quality looked at 195 countries around the world; Nigeria ranked 142nd.
  4. One of the biggest problems facing Nigeria is the lack of qualified workers in the healthcare sector. The densities of nurses, midwives and doctors are ineffective for a country the size of Nigeria. There are only 1.95 qualified healthcare workers per 1,000 citizens in Nigeria.
  5. The healthcare statistics in Nigeria are abysmal. Maternal mortality in Nigeria is among the worst in the world with a whopping 19% of global maternal deaths occurring in the country. Additionally, the infant mortality rate is far too high at 19 deaths per 1,000 births. In addition, the mortality rate of children under 5 is 128 per 1,000. Moreover, life expectancy in Nigeria is an incredibly low 54.4.
  6. Healthcare expenditures accounted for 3.7% of Nigeria’s GDP in 2016. Of total healthcare expenditures, 71.7% is from out-of-pocket spending – expenses that do not receive coverage from insurance or government subsidies.
  7. One of the biggest problems plaguing healthcare in Nigeria is inequality. For example, most of the healthcare workforce works in urban areas, specifically in the southern parts of the country. As a result, rural healthcare lags behind with fewer healthcare workers. Fortunately, Nigeria has identified this problem and is working to mitigate it. A successful approach that Nigeria initiated was the Midwifery Service Scheme. This program, started in 2009, took unemployed, retired and recently graduated midwives and placed them in rural areas for a year of community service. Simply getting more qualified healthcare workers in rural areas is proving to be a huge success.
  8. Healthcare in Nigeria is not all bad. Recent infrastructure improvements are helping end polio and fight diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19. For example, Nigeria has implemented a decentralized disease control network and better vaccine storage methods.

Today, Nigeria faces an uphill battle. The country needs to address healthcare inequality and a lack of a qualified healthcare workforce to continue developing on a global scale. The country has taken some measures to modernize its healthcare infrastructure and more are on the way.

– Evan Kuo
Photo: Flickr