Tackling coronavirus stigmatisation in Nigeria

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Persons suffering social stigma are avoided, marginalised, rejected, or banished, with unsavoury rumours peddled about them.

Two main sources of stigmatisation are the commission of abomination and being inflicted with a terrible, contagious disease, such as leprosy, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Ebola Virus Disease, mental illness and others.

In the case of diseases like leprosy, special settlements are often built far away from normal society where the sufferers are quartered and often spend the rest of their lives there.

Viral diseases and flus break out in one part of the world and spread to other parts, wreaking great tolls on the health of people and the economic and social lives of nations. People who come from the outbreak spots tend to suffer stigmatisation.

Chinese and Asian nationals all over the world are experiencing the stigma attached to the new coronavirus Disease, because it broke out in Wuhan, China.

It was the attempt to minimise this that made the World Health Organisation (WHO) to rename it coronavirus.

Meanwhile, global body, UNICEF, has already commenced an online campaign to stem the tide of stigma, as the pandemic continues to rage unabated. It also gave tips on how governments can battle stigma.

“The coronavirus’ spread and global reach has been a source of concern and a call for collective action to prevent the virus from spreading further.

“While you may be feeling worried about how to stay safe amidst this pandemic, it is critical that we keep coronavirus-related stigma to a minimum as it may make this challenging situation worse,” it said.

Here in Nigeria, the stigmatisation of coronavirus positive patients or those whose family members died from the affliction or those who were fortunate to survive after treatment at the isolation and care centres is a growing worry. It is a replay of the past scenes associated with the HIV/AIDS and Ebola outbreaks.

With more prominent persons coming out to disclose their positive test results for coronavirus, experts believe stigma may be halted in its tracks before it becomes full-blown.

Some prominent persons who had taken the bold step in recent weeks include a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who disclosed his son’s status; the President’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari; Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed; Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, amongst others.

As a country, we must move very fast to deal with this dangerous social menace, otherwise we might lose the fight.

Stigmatisation forces many people who know they have the symptoms to hide and in the process continue to spread it to their family members and from there to other members of the public.

This could result in the explosive doomsday scenario that we and our concerned foreign friends have been deeply afraid of.

Nigerian NewsDirect strongly call for the war on stigmatisation to be deliberately emphasised in our various enlightenment and sensitisation agendas.

While the identities of patients and survivors should be handled in line with the WHO guidelines and medical ethics, Nigerian NewsDirect encouraged the enlightened ones not to be afraid. Let them come out and help in demystifying it.

The strange thing is that many of our governors, prominent politicians and wealthy compatriots who tested positive and successfully underwent treatment have been openly owning up, yet they are not stigmatised. It is the poor and helpless among us that engage in this deadly practice of hiding and stigmatising, thus endangering themselves.

Analysts suggest that coronavirus survivors develop stronger immunity and that their plasma could be used in treating other infected persons. This means that the survivors are great assets to us in this war. Let us eschew stigmatisation and hasten the defeat of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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