Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) in partnership with Land is Life, USA on July 31, 2020 flagged off COVID-19 Awareness and Sensitization Campaign among the indigenous peoples of Rivers State, Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

The campaign followed observations through baseline studies that the closure of some markets in parts of Rivers State by the government as part of corona virus disease (COVID-19) preventive measures is making matter worse as the indigenous peoples that were dislodged from the main markets relocated to makeshift on nearby road and streets where they operate without observing physical and social distancing as well as other COVID-19 protocols as recommended by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and World Health Organization (W.H.O.) as well as the Rivers State Government through the State COVID-19 Task Force.The COVID-19 awareness and sensitization campaign saw ten (10) “COVID-19 Awareness Volunteers” selected from Advocacy Centre’s network of One Million Youth Volunteers of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters in the Niger Delta who were beautifully dressed in customized T-shirts, Face Masks with black jeans and skirts create awareness among the indigenous peoples. The Volunteers made up of four males and six females including a physically challenged in line with our core values of “living no one behind” pasted sensitization campaign posters, shared hand bills, applied hand sanitizers and distributed hundreds of free customized quality Face Masks produced with supports from Land is Life, United States of America among others to hundreds of people in the market.  Speaking at the flag-off event in Bori makeshift market to declare the awareness campaign open, the Executive Director of Advocacy Centre, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface said ADVOCACY CENTRE today decided to take the COVID-19 Awareness and Sensitization Campaign to Bori, Khana Local Government Area to flag-off due to easy accessibility among the selected local government areas and that the COVID-19 Awareness and Sensitization Campaign Team would thereafter take the advocacy to Etche and Ahoada East Local Government Areas among others to talk to market men and women as well as community people in the days ahead.In the words of YEAC’s Executive Director, “Our message to the people of Khana is that they should note that COVID-19 is real and in this era of pollution in Ogoniland which Khana is part of, they have underlining sicknesses and if they do not take COVID-19 campaigns seriously, there is the tendency that they could contract the disease and it would more disastrous because it is more effective and powerful on people that already have underlining sicknesses. So, our message is that they should take COVID-19 campaign very seriously and in all what they do, they should try as much as possible to observe social distancing in all what they do and all other COVID-19 Protocols. This is our message for the people of Khana Local Government Area today and we asked the people of Etche, Ahoada as well as other parts of the State to wait for us. We are coming to carry out this same campaign in these areas”.Also speaking, the Leader of Khana Local Government Area Legislative Assembly and member of Khana COVID-19 Committee, Lekia Court Nwanikpo said “I appreciate what Advocacy Centre has done today. It is a brilliant one. They have come here to sensitize our people and following which the people are observing social distancing. We appreciate them. They have done well by sharing free face masks and other sensitization materials to the people. So, I appreciate Advocacy Centre for today”.

Some of the beneficiaries of the awareness and sensitization program expressed happiness and thanked Advocacy Centre for the awareness campaign. Mrs. Beauty Nuka said “I am very much happy for the advice going on today. I derived a lot from this advice. It is awareness for people to know that COVID-19 is real and that COVID-19 is a killer disease. We need sanitizers and the people should stay home and ensure distance interaction so that the people can be free. I am very happy for the awareness that is going on today to educate our people around this environment to let them know that COVID-19 is real. So, thank you for your advice; thank you for the campaign going on; thank you for the awareness”Also speaking, Mr. Clement Iyoryor, a trader in the makeshift market said “What I am seeing today is really very surprising that the COVID-19 issue is being monitored by the Leader of Council. I am impressed that this thing is happening. We appreciate the coordinators of this campaign about an issue that is going to protect our lives in Khana local Government Area”ADVOCACY CENTRE noted during the awareness and sensitization campaign in Bori headquarters of Khana Local Government Area that the COVID-19 preventive measures for which markets were shutdown are being defeated with the crowds in makeshift markets not observing social distancing and other COVID-19 preventive protocols. Advocacy Centre therefore calls on the Rivers State Government to re-open the markets and work with market leaderships to ensuring that each shop in the markets maintains hand washing buckets, apply sanitizers and ensure social distancing and other COVID-19 preventive measures among customers.To Advocacy Centre, the continuous closure of markets which gives ways for people to not observe COVID-19 preventive measures is counterproductive. Thus, Advocacy Centre cannot categorically endorse the decision of government for the continuous closure of markets as a positive COVID-19 preventive strategy but alleging and insinuating that the Governor, Chief Barrister Nyesom Wike, CON and the State government may have a different motive not yet known to the public for the continuous closure of markets since March 2020. Advocacy Centre therefore calls on the Rivers State Government to re-open the markets and ensure that COVID-19 protocols are in place for households and local economy to thrive again.

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