SEATTLE, Washington — The Republic of Niger is a landlocked country in western Africa with the Niger River running through the southwest. It has a fast-growing population of more than 24 million people, four million on whom live in urban areas. In 2019, Niger’s extreme poverty rate was still at 41.4%. With COVID-19 in Niger, the economy will suffer from immense stress due to increased spending on healthcare for those impacted by the virus. Even with these complications, Niger has begun to lift some of the bans and curfews put in place at the start of the pandemic.
Niger Closes Borders
Niger’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed on March 19, 2020. It was a 36-year-old man who had recently traveled outside the country. The Ministry of Health reported that the patient was being treated and in “stable condition.” Before the virus had infected anyone, the country had already planned to shut down its borders for everything except transporting goods. It also planned to close educational institutions for two weeks.
As of August 3, there were 1,152confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Niger and 69 deaths. At least 1,032 people have recovered. Niger is working hard to keep its citizens informed about the virus by providing a website with information about self-quarantine protocols, press releases and statistics for each region. It also has a COVID-19 online screening
Healthcare and education from foreign countries focus on rural areas where the care facilities are the poorest. Fights against meningitis, smallpox, measles and sleeping sickness were prosperous in Niger, which means that the country has strong allies in the battle against COVID-19.
Niger’s Action Steps During COVID-19
UNICEF installed temporary health facilities in Niamey, Niger. It also trained 500 healthcare workers, provided protective wear and gave the facilities necessary equipment for patients who require oxygen. It is also working to improve hygiene and sanitation in treatment centers. The goal is to expand hospital capacity and capabilities with COVID-19 patients.
In mid-April, the World Bank provided the country $13.95 million for prevention in response to COVID-19 in Niger. Current trends are looking positive. The country’s coronavirus website chart shows that, at the beginning of April, the number of newly confirmed cases each day topped 65-70, whereas now, each day there are about 10-20 new cases.
Niger Lifts Bans
Upon discussion with the “COVID-19 expert committee,” Niger’s government decided to lift the ban on all places of worship on May 13. Although this goes against social distancing rules that many countries are practicing, religious leaders are to take preventative measures such as wearing masks, disinfecting areas before use and avoid shaking hands.
Although Niger is reopening parts of the country, organizations like UNICEF and the Ministry of Health will continue partnering together in educating citizens and engaging in infection prevention. The battle against COVID-19 in Niger is just as important as any other country’s because diseases have no borders.
– Molly Moline