Amnesty International (AI), on Friday urged the Nigerian authorities to ensure that health workers in the frontline of COVID-19 response have access to protective equipment.
AI, in its May Day message, lamented that brave health workers have been working in difficult conditions, providing services in the fight against Coronavirus.
It expressed concern that they face the risks of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus, stigmatization, separation from their families, mental health and other concerns.
“Across Nigeria, health workers are facing extremely difficult and unsafe conditions of work, such as shortages of personal protective equipment, dilapidated and overstretched health facilities, unfair remuneration and harassment by security forces,” said Osai Ojigho, AI Director in Nigeria.
“Health workers have been describing the difficulties they face and the danger they confront to secure the health and lives of people in Nigeria. What the government must guarantee is their protection. It is unacceptable that they continue to be put at risk.”
On April 23, the federal administration disclosed that 40 health workers tested positive for COVID-19.
AI said it interviewed some health workers who raised concerns that health workers across Nigeria are working without adequate protections and in very difficult conditions.
“In the government hospital where I work, there is no running water for health workers to wash their hands. Doctors and nurses have to fetch water in a bowl, which is not sanitary,” a health worker told Amnesty International.
Another said: “Surgical masks are not adequately available in the hospital where I work. Authorities contracted tailors to sew unsafe masks with local fabrics. Doctors and nurses had to protest before they were given N95 masks. These masks are not adequately available. We have to wash the masks for repeated usage. Health workers are in danger. We work under deplorable conditions.”
A doctor in the Federal Capital Territory told AI that some patients are being turned away from some hospitals because health workers do not have adequate personal protective equipment.
“When a health worker is provided with adequate personal protective equipment, we will not be scared of attending to any patient, regardless of the symptoms they exhibit, and lives would be saved,” the personnel said.
AI appealed to authorities to provide all necessary personal protective equipment (such as masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, soap, water), fair remuneration, appropriate working hours with healthy breaks, accurate and accessible information on COVID-19, training and psycho-social support.
“Health workers must be given the support they need to effectively do their jobs,” Osai Ojigho added.