COVID-19: FG shifts focus to vulnerable, poor

The federal government, through the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, will adopt a multi-faceted approach, which will also focus on the poor and vulnerable, the elderly, refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), persons living with disabilities, trafficked persons, petty traders, among others, in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. 

The efforts of the ministry will be part of the ongoing interventions of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, but with a focus on the vulnerable groups in the country. 

In a statement made available to Blueprint in Abuja Friday, which was signed by her Special Assistant on Media and Press Affairs, Salisu Na’inna Dambatta, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, announced this after a meeting with all the agencies of the ministry where strategies were fashioned out for the nationwide response; with emphasis on targeting most vulnerable groups in the society. 

The ministry’s COVID-19 Response Committee comprises all the agencies supervised by the ministry working jointly and speedily to deliver emergency relief to vulnerable segments of our society.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) under the ministry will lead in delivering services and relief to people and most especially the vulnerable groups along with the other agencies, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the North East Development Commission (NEDC), Social Development Goals (SDGs) and the four components of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs), namely: N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP).

Farouq restated that the ministry and the agencies “have a collective responsibility to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to save lives and alleviate suffering of people in line with its mission and mandate. It is also our responsibility to act and coordinate all interventions that promote social development and strengthen social systems that provide support for and protection of vulnerable groups in Nigeria.” 

She explained that the ministry-led intervention will prioritize prevention and community engagement and increase sensitisation to curtail spread of COVID-19 particularly among the person of concern in the implementation of the initiative to drive the overall national strategy adopted by the PTF on COVID-19. 

The plan includes release of food items, early payments to beneficiaries of Conditional Cash Transfer, N-Power, grassroot communication of COVID-19 control measures using personnel, equipment, GEEP infrastructure, the provision of protective items such as face masks, sanitisers and soap for hand washing. 

The ministry also directed all its agencies to make available both human and material resources to NEMA and the Presidential Task Force for use in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She said: “We are in an emergency and work must start immediately. Given the current global crisis as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, we must work together and deploy all of our resources in unison to support the national efforts for maximum impact.

“To provide some respite for the vulnerable, we will provide targeted social interventions to them to ensure every Nigerian identified as a vulnerable person receives support. We will equally leverage the existing social intervention programmes to provide shock safety nets nationwide. 

“Importance of the task ahead of us cannot be overemphasised as our innovations and strategies emanating from our collective efforts will cushion the backlash of the ongoing crisis. Given the lack of precedent for a total lock down, I call on you all to be innovative, flexible, transparent and supportive while being on the lookout for lessons to be learned for future application.”

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