Our Response to COVID-19: Keeping Everyone Showing Up, but Masked Up

As an organization focused on livelihood and commitment to supporting Nigerian communities in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mask Up 2 Show Up project was birthed to address the increasing spread. The project aimed to create community awareness of the importance of consistent and appropriate wearing of face masks, social distance and safe handwashing measures against COVID-19. The Mask Up 2 Show Up project, an initiative of Nigeria Youth SDGs Network in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, was launched because of the realization that following the COVID-19 guidelines, especially masking up, prevents the fast and further spread of COVID-19. As a result, the NGYouthSDGs, through her champions and volunteers, embarked on a public awareness campaign in 10 Nigerian states between October and November 2021, emphasizing the importance of proper and consistent wearing of face masks and the provision of face masks as part of the preventive measures against COVID-19. In addition, the project partnered with 17 community-based organizations by providing face masks to ensure that the event and outreaches hosted abide by the Nigeria Centre for Disease and Control (NCDC) COVID-19 guidelines in ensuring the safety of Nigerians.

The campaign across the states reached over 8,500 people directly and 50,000 indirectly, got 13,000 face masks distributed and engaged about 400 community leaders in sustainable disease prevention efforts using dedicated 111 volunteers- one of the few public awareness campaigns witnessed to make long-reaching impacts in a limited period!

The ten (10) states witnessed the Mask Up 2 Show Up campaign (Cross River, Kwara, Kaduna, Ondo, Enugu, Anambra, Gombe, Nassarawa, Lagos and FCT) were seen to be spread across the geo-political zones in Nigeria.

The campaign achieved through the collaboration between the states’ Ministries of Health, youth-led/youth-focused and community leaders. Unique visits were carried out to the ministries, notifying them of the campaign and requesting health educators that will support in professional facilitation of the discussions around COVID-19 spread. Advocacy Visits to the community leaders were also done as the community assessed for the campaign were primarily rural communities. As a pointer to this move, findings had revealed a high level of non-compliance with COVID-19 safety and precautionary guidelines across rural Nigerian communities. In addition to the community-based awareness campaign staged and led by the Network, 17 partnered organizations were engaged to reach over 6,500 direct and 35,000 indirect beneficiaries.

The exceptional feature of the campaign executed by the Nigeria Youth SDGs Network was the adoption of activities – awareness drive & facemasks distribution to partnered organizations running concurrently with organic awareness community events. This approach yielded reach of the different vulnerable age groups in the communities, including children, women and the elderly. The communities were reoriented on COVID-19; its realness, and the need to adopt precautionary & preventive measures. Further community commitment had yielded willingness to opt for the COVID-19 vaccination.

Extraordinary stories from the communities across the states included the increased vaccination rate in the Sholu community of Kwara State, where over 70 people opted for and were vaccinated following the Network’s awareness session. Heartfelt stories following the realization of their poor awareness of the diseases were heard from the Unguwar Sarki community of Kaduna State. Widespread were individual stories and their encounter with COVID-19 since its short emergence. It inspired community members across states to commit to staying safe for themselves and the people around and curb the spread. It is truly reflected the #eDeyUrHand message brought by the volunteers and champions.

Through the campaign, volunteers gained real-time exposure during the activities. Learnings from the champions and volunteers in the campaign had set the Nigerian youth ready for a far more reaching impact even as the war on the COVID-19 pandemic lingers. Memorable experiences of the champions and volunteers shaped their understanding of the intricacies of community advocacy, challenges and how they would approach them subsequently. The Network is proud to have groomed this community-based and grassroots SDG Champs!

Initiatives such as the Mask Up 2 Show Up project demonstrate the extent to which Nigeria Youth SDGs Network build youth that will champion change across grassroots communities in Nigeria. It affirms NGYouthSDG’s readiness to address further overarching challenges for attaining the Global Goals.