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SIDE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN NIGERIA

SIDE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN NIGERIA

In late 2019, an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus2 (SARS-Cov2) spread from China to the rest of the world resulting in a global pandemic – COVID-19 pandemic (WHO). The disease became widespread and the governments of countries all over the world had to put several restrictions in place to prevent it from spreading further. In Nigeria, the government did not impose any restrictive measures until April 27, 2020. (www.punchng.com)

Although the government put these measures in place to protect the citizens from the deadly virus, it had the opposite effect on some groups of people. One of these is the recreational drug users. The restrictive measures the government adopted made it necessary to close all the recreational settings where these drugs were available.

This made in-house drug abuse the only feasible option. Some of this group of people did not have the chance to quarantine with their loved ones because they were in different places when the government enforced the lockdown so they were alone and as a result had nothing else to do but indulge in hard drugs. There was thus a sharp increase in the rate of drug use in Nigeria and all over the world. While some of the drug users could afford the drugs (the street price of these drugs skyrocketed during the lockdown due to temporary closure of borders and air spaces. This affected the usual illegal drug route of shipping from country to country and made drugs scarce and expensive), some of these drug users could not afford the high price rates so they slipped into withdrawal. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that withdrawal from opioid, one of the most abused drugs, can indeed lead to death if not treated quickly and properly. Several deaths have been recorded due to untreated withdrawals (www.medscape.com). 

In-house drug abuse also encouraged chemsex (sexual activity engaged in while under the influence of stimulant drugs). Some stories on sexual addiction were reported by the newspapers during the lockdown. Husbands began to demand too much sex from their wives. There were published stories of women who cried out over the sexual pressure their husbands were putting on them out of boredom (www.punchng.com). This ‘forced’ togetherness caused even more commotion in some homes because many women weren’t used to cooking three square meals a day anymore because hitherto they had to go to work. But during the lockdown, they were all stuck together and so it was mandatory that the woman cook at least twice daily which took a serious toll on some women psychologically.

Being in the same space with children for a prolonged time also had their effects on some families. Some parents usually find it hard to keep up with their children during school holidays, so they found it difficult to stay with the children for twenty-four hours every day of the week. In many homes, the father is the breadwinner and as a result, he usually leaves home in the mornings and doesn’t come back until late in the evening leaving him little or no time to bond with the children. But during the pandemic, families were forced to stay in the same space so fathers were forced to bond with the children. Though this had its good sides, it also impacted negatively on the psychological health of some parents especially for those with children under age 5. 

The forced proximity occasioned by the lockdown also caused a spike in gender-based violence. Many of the women in abusive marriages find it hard to leave especially because of their children. The only time such women get any form of peace of mind is when their husbands leave the house to work. The lockdown, however, forced everyone to stay at home as all business outfits were closed. As a result, these women were stuck with their abusers throughout the day. This left these women feeling trapped and helpless. In Yobe, a husband chopped off his wife’s right hand because she had gone to a wedding he did not approve of while the lockdown was still in effect (www.pulitzercenter.com). During the pandemic, the Domestic Violence Referral Centre in Lagos recorded a 35 per cent increase in gender-based violence cases (www.pulitzercenter.com). The cases also became more violent because the abusers usually took out their anger on the victims. It was indeed a horrible time for these poor women.

Furthermore, masturbation was a problem during this period. Single men and women who couldn’t pay for sex because of STDs intensified their masturbation routine. At some point, masturbation trends were going round on Twitter. Some boys claimed to have been masturbating so much that their penis bled. The lockdown encouraged masturbation on a very unhealthy scale for men and boys especially.

Suicide and depression rates increased significantly during this period because the psychological distress of citizens increased. People were agitated because they were worried about how they would survive the pandemic without going out to work every day. For those who had a small-to-medium scale business, they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to revive their businesses after the lockdown. Those who were quarantining alone were more susceptible to severe depression and suicidal thoughts because they were alone with their thoughts for a lengthy period. Job loss, financial hardship and depression were intensified during the pandemic for one reason or another. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria remains the 10th leading country with higher rates of suicide (The Daily Trust). It is also estimated that 2020 had the most suicide cases.

The curtailment of social gatherings as well as lack of online academic engagement during the COVID-19 lockdown had some potentially damaging effects on the psychological state of university students in Nigerian tertiary institutions. The study made by Lucia Y.Ojewale proved that there was a serious prevalence of anxiety and depression amongst students especially those with poor family functioning, inability to afford three or two square meals a day, and those living in states with a high incidence of COVID-19. (www.medrxiv.com)

And of course, we can’t neglect the socio-economic effect the pandemic had on people and the country. During the lockdown every activity was shut-down and this made it very difficult for some sections of the Nigerian population to survive. These are those who depend on daily activities for survival. They include cab drivers, fruit sellers and skilled workers like vulcanizers and mechanics who depend on the income generated from their daily transactions. The restriction of movements made it difficult for these groups of people to earn a living. The farmers could not go to their respective farmlands to farm hence causing serious inflation in the prices of food across the country. Food became ridiculously expensive and the daily income earners couldn’t go out to earn money. Many of the people who would have gone out to work themselves could not and as a result, sought robbery and fraud as a new means of livelihood. Hence, increasing the crime rate in the country.

The mental health of those in the Nigerian health sector was also a huge concern at the time. The African Journal for Psychological Studies of Social Issues recorded a significant percentage increase in the anxiety of Nigerian health workers in the year 2020. Doctors were worried not only for themselves but also for the lives of the people around them. According to a Channels TV report, some of them were scared that they would somehow take the virus home and infect their children, husbands or loved ones. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has one way or the other had a devastating impact on the lives of everybody across the globe. It has rendered some people jobless, some people homeless and others dead. All we must focus on as country now is how to come back stronger from a pandemic that tried to destroy us.

Moyosoreoluwa T. FAGUNLEKA

Dept. of Mass Communication

Matric. No.: 190902071

                                                         

                                                         

       

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