COVID-19 Crisis: As Nigeria Records 1728 Positive Cases, 51 Deaths, Returned Migrants are Flooding Ethiopia

253 views | Akanimo Sampson | April 30, 2020

FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

With 196 new positive cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, Nigeria now has a total of 1728 COVID-19 patients. 

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says out of the 196 new confirmed cases, Lagos remains the epicentre of the disease with 87 newly infected persons, followed by kano with 24 cases. 

Others are Gombe 16, Kaduna 17, Abuja 16, Katsina 10, Sokoto eight, Edo seven, Borno six, Yobe one, Adamawa one and Ebonyi one.

While the spike in the number of new cases in the country is worrisome, the Federal Government said it will relax restrictions from May 4. But, it is being feared that the move will worsen the rate of spread of the rampaging virus in the country.

However, there are concerns that the current four-week-old lockdown has led to widespread hunger and unease among millions of citizens working in the informal sector of the economy.

Interestingly, while Nigeria records 307 recoveries from COVID-19, the virus has sadly terminated 51 lives also.

In the meantime, the spike in deaths in Kano due to an unknown ailment is causing speculations among Nigerians.

The state government says the deaths are unrelated to the coronavirus. But a recent survey in Kano is suggesting differently. 

The survey that was carried out by Yusuf Maitama Sule University in Kano, says that 41% of the dead victims had a fever, a prime symptom of COVID-19, thus raising concerns the deaths might be connected with the pandemic.

This is happening as migrants over the last few weeks are being sent back to Ethiopia from Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, and other countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The country is receiving thousands of migrants returned from countries across Africa and the Middle East, in response to the global health pandemic. 

Already, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is assisting more than 9,400 migrants in the country’s quarantine facilities. 

IOM is supporting the government of Ethiopia to ensure returning migrants receive medical care, food, shelter and other assistance during quarantine and after, including helping them return to their villages. 

There are 124 COVID-19 positive cases in Ethiopia and three have died from the disease. There are fears that were the disease to spread the public health system could not cope with a major outbreak. 

The previous Thursday (April 23), Ethiopia’s Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Dr Ergogie Tesfaye, joined IOM’s Chief of Mission to Ethiopia, Maureen Achieng, on a visit to one of the quarantine centres, Addis Ababa University’s Sidist Kilo campus, operated by the government. 

The two were accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator for Ethiopia, Dr Catherine Sozi. During the site visit, discussions were held with medical staff and managers on the needs of those under quarantine, and ways to improve the existing facilities. 

According to the minister, “IOM’s quick response and support for returning migrants in Ethiopia are always appreciated. As the coronavirus response requires harmonised efforts from all, we appreciate the coordinated support we are receiving from UN partners as well.” 

Eleven other sites in regional towns, mainly in university campuses, have been converted into quarantine locations. 

Over 6,800 migrants have been received in these sites where IOM is providing various materials such as bedsheets, soap, and sanitizer. 

Chief of Mission Achieng says, “in response to the crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM staff are working on the frontlines of the national response to the pandemic as well as supporting government of Ethiopia structures deployed to work on the response.  

“The return of migrants during this crisis threatens already stretched capacities in Ethiopia and to this end, IOM is responding to the direct needs of returnees, ensuring facilities are run efficiently, and bolstering the national response, in line with government needs.” 

After completing their quarantine period in Addis Ababa and the other Regional States, IOM will work with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs to provide migrants with transportation to their hometowns and to reintegrate them with their families. 

There are calls to ensure that migrants are treated fairly and equally as countries in the region respond to the disease. IOM is calling for the prioritisation and protection of the most vulnerable and for migrants to be included in government response plans. 

IOM has also assigned medical personnel to quarantine sites in Addis Ababa, and Mental Health and Psychosocial Service specialists trained and deployed to support the protection needs of migrants at quarantine centres across the country. 

“It is critical to have enhanced coordination among all the stakeholders that are directly engaged in responding to the needs of the returnee Ethiopian migrants for the country to successfully avoid the perils of the Covid-19 pandemic”, says Sozi. 

The UN has called on countries to stop the detention of foreign migrants for purposes of immigration management. 

It has also urged countries to work closely with relevant national, regional and continental authorities to release migrants from overcrowded and unsafe detention centres and to provide adequate and safe shelters as an alternative. 

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