COVID-19, Media Inaction and The Need For Pandemic Resilience
AREWA AGENDA – For a Nation like Nigeria with over 69% of its population living below the poverty line and about 9.45 million in extreme poverty, settling within 2.5million poor and vulnerable households across 43,248 communities, 421 Local Government Areas and 4,347 Wards located all over the country, the raging COVID-19 pandemic has drawn a thin line between survival against the novel coronavirus and survival against the pangs of hunger, a situation that has accelerated an inevitable risk in increased mortality on both sides of the divide.
World Bank predicted that the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty might increase by more than 30 million in 2030 due to the current economic situation and the level of unemployment.
A good percentage of Nigerians are wired in such a way that they eke a living from their daily toil. Therefore, constraints occasioned by the prevailing circumstance means direct sentence to extent penury, pain, despair and societal hopelessness.
Despite other existential threats such as unemployment, insecurity, lack of social justice and squalid healthcare systems that has aggravated the impact of the pandemic on the livelihood of Nigerians, the Nigerian Media sphere has to a large extent abdicated its responsibility of creating public awareness to the plight of extremely poor Nigerians under this pandemic.
Where they are being highlighted across radio, television and print media, the coverage is an insignificant proportion of the overall news story as reports are mostly either focused on the Psychology of the dangers of COVID-19 or the Politics surrounding the fight against the virus.
While this communication angle may serve its purpose of sensitization and deterrence, it is akin to a bird flying on one wing since no Media is giving prominence to the effect of COVID-19 on agriculture, women health, sexual assault, economy, security, power, governance, law, urban violence, unemployment, poverty and hunger among other matters.
We therefore call on the Media to remember its obligation to its constituents and we wish to remind them that Media inaction in giving eminence to human angle stories in the collective fight against the novel Coronavirus may result to the fourth estate of the realm inadvertently contributing to the overwhelming rate of poverty and the stunted growth the country may be facing in years to come.
As the Media is busy keeping the Public informed about the action of its leaders, so should it keep the leaders informed about the condition of the Public in order to enable the leaders make informed, timely and need based interventions.
It is therefore expedient on media executives, practitioners, Influencers, activists to rise in together in making development and solutions journalism a fundamental core of news reportage in the collective fight against COVID-19.
By ceaselessly drawing attention to human angle issues and proffering their solutions the Media will find itself leading from the front in placing the country on the path of pandemic resilience that may birth an integrated strategy that finds a way to control the disease while at the same time keeping our human endeavor open.
Like the famous cliché goes; this too shall pass.
Eid-El-Fitr Mubarak fellow Nigerians.