Now, here’s to try and finish what I started in the last post.
I ran my mouth about what I would have done from the onset in 5 simply written steps. (Note: simply written and not simple).
Here they are again:
- Declare Obalende an epicentre
- Introduce curfews and movement restriction
- Moved much faster with quarantine
- Mark ‘Points of Guard’ immediately
- Official information dissemination
I already did some justice to this where I explained using the ‘clean up’ of neighbourhood slums to introduce more hygeinic regimes or plans to keep public spaces cleaner. I am sorry if this sounds insensitive, that is the most effective way in my opinion to send clear messages and send them quickly in densely populated suburbs in Nigeria. Hence, when people have to avoid Obalende for fear of contracting a virus which kills in 21 days – worse than HIV, AIDS and all STDs put together; each commuter, resident and citizen would beforced to ask questions about this ‘strange, killer disease’.
To be honest, this does nothing but create panic especially if not well managed. I know. However, there is only a very thin line between adequate information, misinformation and disinformation. Nevertheless, controlled panic or near panic is by far much manageable and more positive than outright panic caused by hoarding information. So, I avoid going through Obalende to work (Ikoyi) and face increased traffic jams perhaps on other routes. If every commuter encountered this, people would carefully consider their movements and only make important and urgent engagements in the area. Whilst this first sounds like restriction of people without reason, the reaction would be an increased interest in #Ebola and people looking for authoritative information to arm themselves with. Opinion leaders would be scarily influential at times like this but that leads us to Point 4.
According to the press briefing by the Honourable Minister for Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; quarantine was first conducted by phone calls to suspected individuals instructing them of the signs to watch out for an further steps to take. This clearly failed – as evidenced by the cases of the Nurse and Doctor – especially the one who travelled out of Lagos to another state. Whilst it had been impossible to move all suspects into a facility immediately due to the sudden nature of the outbreak (even though we should have been prepared when the virus hit the second country in the region). However, I am certain there must be ways using ICT to track or closely monitor the movement of all suspects so as to track when they attempt leaving the state. Still quarantine was slow, in most cases; we did not have adequate data to consider the enormity of the situation we we(a)re dealing with in order to predict its possible outcomes as well as potential risks.
In respect of potential risks, this is our biggest weakness in the entire pandemic. Points of Guard (POG). I refer to critical (and very dangerous) locations, platforms and influencer spheres which can make or mar the collective global efforts in steming the ravaging spread of #Ebola. I had in the previous post mentioned #Airports but you see, these are only one of the many other POG. Religious Meeting venues (Churches and Mosques mainly), Restaurants, Local/Street barbers, Land/Sea borders, Sporting Venues (Community sports arenas, Gyms) etc. I was honestly impressed with the delegation sent to Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synaogue Of All Nations (SCOAN) but whatever happened to all the others – were delegations sent to them as well? These other institutions command much more attention and influence when put together than SCOAN. Although most of them are silent on their healing ministries; their influence on the West African Region was seemingly underestimated. Nevertheless, this strategy fell flat on its face as the Holy Prophet announced donations of Holy Water to all the affected countries and promised to personally accept the invitation(s) of National Governments to intervene. Were all the associations and groups briefed and given adequate information to organise Information Sessions? This was a mess and it was explicitly obvious in the final factor.
This reason is sensitive because it is the test factor or primary M&E indicator of the success of the emergency coordination process. It is obvious that the Federal (and Lagos State) Governments did not balance the ‘Ebola is in Nigeria’ message with ‘Nothing else can cure it apart from improved hygiene’ clause. In Crisis Management, a #LineToTake (LTT) can be effective yet tricky. If members of a team do not all deliver the LTT with the same emphasis yet unique angles – it appears scripted and either ignorant or difficult to sell. Our LTT was weak. There was no Central Information Point (CIP) which the Federal Ministry for Information should have manned. I tried to follow in order to write a balanced blog post about this but I did not get the sense it was coordinated – uniform and timely.
Honestly, these issues are easy to analyze but require experience and professionalism to be implemented effectively. From the many posts I have read about the epidemic, as a nation; we were clearly not ready. The National Council on Health (comprising all State Commissioners for Health) met many days after when they should have been on RED ALERT – waiting to roll out the information machinery. And our Armed Forces? I heard, felt or saw no plans.
As I write on, I feel these are just ideas – ones suggested after a Eureka moment and bound to fail if put to test. One thing’s certain, every great initiative, form of success, strategy or activity started with a seemingly bright idea. I hope that as a nation, ours will emerge when next we need to stand together….sometime very soon.