Mystery Deaths in Kano puts Nigeria On The Edge in Coronavirus Fight

Mystery Deaths in Kano puts Nigeria On The Edge in Coronavirus Fight

Is Kano a Loose cannon?

The Rising cases of mystery deaths' in Kano state, with an estimated 8 million residents, has left many bewildered as the state braces up to the reality of becoming an epicenter of COVID19 .

Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje who has been in self-denial initially blamed ailments such as diabetes and malaria. Fast forward -Kano's lockdown has been extended whilst an emergency team has been deployed to investigate the new wave of cases.

“Our careful observation and understanding indicated that coronavirus is the cause of the mass deaths,” Nasiru Gwarzo, the head of the presidential task force, told reporters on Sunday in the city.

There is a heightened fear of unconfirmed cases giving credence that the virus has spread undetected in other crowded cities on the continent.

The health infrastructure is cringing from the sudden surge of numbers leading to hospitals closing down amidst fear of contracting the disease. Many are left unattended and are now dying at their homes undocumented.

Isa Abubakar, the director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Research at Kano’s Bayero University gave credence to the report.

People with other conditions, either unwilling or unable to seek medical care, are dying at home.

“This disease has spread among almost every stratum of our society,” Abubakar said.

Lagos remains the hardest-hit part of Nigeria, recording 1,100 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday, about a third of the nation’s total and three times as many as in Kano. 

But there isn’t enough testing capacity in the city, which is a trade hub for northern Nigeria and the Sahel, an arid area on the southern fringe of the Sahara.

Two sites are now able to process about 300 samples a day, according to Abubakar, and Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, has donated a clinic supposed to perform 1,000 tests by May 10.

“If Kano had the capacity of testing of Lagos, Kano would probably surpass Lagos” in the number of cases, Abubakar said.

The poor are left to their fate

Critics of the state government say Governor Ganduje was slow to shutter markets and mosques in the predominantly Muslim city at a time when the central government and other regional authorities imposed movement restrictions and social distancing. 

Even as Abuja and Lagos went into lockdown on March 30, many people were still able to travel to Kano city with the state government “evidently unprepared to deal with a Covid-19 outbreak,” the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development said in a report.

What has caused the surge in numbers

The Governor has been complacent and did not take adequate measures to impose mandatory Lockdown as Mosque and social gatherings were still in operation long after the Lockdown was imposed as a result of this irresponsibility by the Governor the virus had spread to among the city’s street kids, known as “almajiris,” who attend Islamic schools and often beg for a living. The Kano authorities have responded by sending many of these children back to their home states, a move that has raised fears the infections may be spreading further.

Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai, who recovered from Covid-19 last week confirmed that 21 street boys sent to the state from Kano tested positive for the virus.

Why is Kano oblivious to a health crisis?

Public awareness on coronavirus has not been disseminated efficiently,  the limitation on testing, contact tracing, and adequate data on those who are affected will only aggravate the problem. Kano is indeed a Loose canon waiting to explode if the government fails to act responsibly and fast.

 “We are now at great risk from what is happening in Kano” - said Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai, who recovered from Covid-19 last week. He said 21 street boys sent to the state from Kano tested positive for the virus.

 Gross Negligence

A lack of record-keeping and the speed with which burials take place add to the difficulty of tracking the coronavirus in Kano, according to Zainab Mahmoud, a Nigerian cardiology fellow at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, who is part of a team that investigated deaths in Kano between April 18-25.

The authorities are also struggling to persuade Kano’s inhabitants of the seriousness of the outbreak and the need to change social norms.

“Part of the contributing factors in Kano is that people don’t really believe that Covid-19 exists,” she said.

The NCDC as at 5th May 2020 has confirmed 148 new cases of #COVID19; 43-Lagos 32-Kano 14-Zamfara 10-FCT 9-Katsina 7-Taraba 6-Borno 6-Ogun 5-Oyo 3-Edo 3-Kaduna 3-Bauchi 2-Adamawa 2-Gombe 1-Plateau 1-Sokoto 1-Kebbi leading to  2950 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria Discharged: 481 Deaths: 98