Plateau Lockdown: Three days to “restock” without money?

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Plateau State in Central Nigeria declared a 7-day total lockdown on Friday April 9, 2020 to check the spread of Covid-19. By the 7th day, the lockdown was extended to 12 midnight of Thursday 23rd April 2020 “to meet the medically stipulated quarantine period of 14 days.”

From 11pm, Wednesday 15th April 2020, to 12 midnight of Sunday 19th April 2020, the total lockdown was relaxed “to enable people go out to restock their homes,” said the Governor. However, many businesses had been banned and offices closed for nearly ten days before the total lockdown. This likely weakened household incomes and purchasing power, as most families live by daily earnings.

A three-day break to “restock” therefore comes with questions as to how the resources with which to restock would come. Already, many families have had to change their diets and quality of food, sometimes repeating meals to stay within available resources.

Government has no doubt spent hugely on control and prevention of COVID-19. So much revenue has equally been lost to global market shutdown affecting export commodity prices. Billions have also been spent on “palliatives” to weak and vulnerable households. Thus, many citizens might not be expecting government incentives as a chance to earn while guarding against the dreaded virus.

Plateau State has not recorded any case yet. Understandably, all restrictions are intended to keep that zero-case status. This is particularly as virtually every State that shares boundary with Plateau has recorded a case. However, two phenomenal killers are at work here – hunger and coronavirus. “One is known on time while the other takes close to 14 days. Here in Nigeria, it’s very easy to survive one than the other,” says a Nigerian Cinematographer and Video Editor, Adekunle Adewusi.

According to a Mercy Corps report, around 9 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases every year, more than the lives taken by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

“Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger. Poor nutrition is responsible for nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of 5 — about 3 million children die each year because their bodies don’t have enough of the basic nutrients they need to function and grow,” says the report.

Coronavirus, not to be underestimated, has killed nearly 150,000 since it started in December 2019. Death rate from coronavirus has only stood at about 4% and even lower in people younger than 70years without medical preconditions.

However, if the current 150,000 current death toll (rounded up from 134,669 deaths as of April 16, 2020) would double each month, which would never been, total deaths from the disease by December 2020 would just be about 1,200,000. That is less than 14% of deaths caused by hunger every year. This probably means the fire brigade approach to the management of COVID-19 by world governments is because it affects both the rich and poor alike. Hunger on the other hand only affects the poor.

Perhaps, if it was seen as an emergency, given its high fatality, the energy and synergy currently being deployed to the anti-coronavirus fight, would be deployed even more, to the fight against hunger. Be that as it may, Nigerians, especially those in Plateau State might not be seeking that emergency response for hunger at the moment. If businesses would be allowed to run, just as farmers are being excepted from lockdown, but with strict enforcement of social distancing, we would have relatively tackled the two challenges.

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