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COVID-19: How our Partner SI4DEV is Supporting Low-income Communities

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TSDI’s flagship program was our affiliate partnership with Strategy for Innovation and Development (SI4DEV), an NGO in Nigeria. TSDI worked with SI4DEV to design the SI4DEV Partners Training Program in 2017. The training program offers an informal certificate on community development to trainees who successful pass through WhatsApp classes and offline project-based learning.

Since 2018, alumni who have graduated from this 6-month program have led various projects, including educational handwashing outreach among other health campaigns. I will be working on this project with SI4DEV Partners and Volunteers, many of whom I have met over the past two years during trips to Nigeria (funded personally). In 2018, the training program graduated the inaugural class of about 40 trainees, who now form the core of the 90-strong Collaborative Alunmi group.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Nigeria, TSDI was one of the first responders through a $5000 targeted donation to SI4DEV. While the government and larger private philanthropies were still mobilizing, SI4DEV launched their 5 million-naira ($14,000) COVID-19 community response fund two days after the president announced cross-country shutdowns on March 29.

The Fund leverages the SI4DEV Alumni and volunteers and supports awareness and prevention of COVID-19, with response and recovery activities for the most vulnerable populations in the following ways:
  1.  Accurate Information for community influencers: This is necessary to directly combat initial myths that poor people or Africans were immune to the virus, or that the virus cannot survive the hot weather in Nigeria. People were erroneously taught by religious leaders that “COVID-19 cannot get to believers” who are protected by God. 
  2. Food and Hygiene Supplies: Most people at the grassroots level say they will only stay home as ordered by the government if they have a good stockpile of food. These are petty traders or self-employed artisans and farmers, who must go out to work daily and depend on their earned income for food and other needs. Most also cannot afford soap for handwashing.
  3. Awareness on COVID-19 prevention strategies: In addition to knowing about the virus, people need to know suitable precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria. Sensitization so far has been through social media, TV, radio and newspapers, but the audience of these news sources are mostly educated and high-income people. The average market woman or farmer cannot afford to buy these devices or may not have time to listen to them. Most of their information comes directly from influencers within the community.
  4. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities: These are vital to limiting the spread of the COVID-19 infection but proper hygiene is not maintained in homes and communities with high poverty, because they cannot afford the extra expenses for soap and water. 
  5. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE): When the prices of PPEs, soaps and sanitizers surged due to global demand, it made it difficult for local healthcare workers to make budgeted purchases and left medical staff at increased risk because of their close contact with people who may be infected. Health education workers could also not get the essential gloves and masks that will allow them to remain safe as they take the message to the communities.

52 SI4DEV volunteers are currently reaching out to about 20 families each in 26 communities with food and hygiene supplies. So far, over 1000 men, women and children have received these packages and have also been sensitized to prevent COVID-19. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was donated to medical professionals at 2 health centers, and handwash facilities placed in 3 public areas.

Over the past weeks, SI4DEV has shown they are faster, nimbler, and more innovative in the work they do. They are also more cost-effective, are closer to their communities and understand the local context better. Trust is key at times like this and SI4DEV partners have direct access to stakeholders in low-income communities as they keep figuring out and deciding on ways to build resilience.

SI4DEV has joined a civil society alliance against COVID-19 which recently released a joint statement, with recommendations on how Nigeria can respond to the pandemic in a more people-centered manner.

More information about these efforts can be seen on the SI4DEV website at the links below: