In a bid to strengthen the fight against Corona Virus in Nigeria, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has encouraged media houses to continue in their role of sensitizing natives on the need to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The group which supports child health and nutrition also stressed the need for a strengthened partnership with the media.
UNICEF stated this during a one day zonal media executive meeting on COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination and theories, organized in collaboration with Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State, BCA, Umuahia.
The event which was held in Port Harcourt had media executives from various media outlets, covering the South South, in attendance.
UNICEF believes that during Pandemics such as COVID-19, a global crisis that has spread throughout the world at a dangerously fast pace, the media will become the dependable ally for information and knowledge sharing.
Desk Officer, BCA, Mr. Nkpa Okezie who took the opening remarks onbehalf of the Director General, Sir Anyaso Anyaso, stated that the meeting on child rights influenced reporting on COVID-19 Pandemic is a call to media executives to plan and develop story pitches that will increase COVID-19 vaccination, frame and pitch overall plights of children and women in the pandemic era while emphasizing on routine immunization.
According to him, “this is the second phase of the meeting to cover South South states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom. The first phase was successfully held in Enugu for South East states with Kogi and Cross River states attending.
“The robust relationship between BCA and UNICEF has over the years, provided this type of forum for media practitioners to come together and address issues affecting women and children.
“UNICEF, we all will appreciate, is synonymous with immunization support, elimination of FGM, promotion of birth registration, media advocacy, WASH, etc
“It is another opportunity today for us all to harness our media experience and chart a new course on how to hype, in a positive direction, issues bothering on Covid-19 vaccine, vaccination and theories surrounding it. The role of the media – electronic, print and social, in accurately reporting child rights influenced information to curtail the spread of covid19 will be in the front burner in this meeting.
“Your pen, your microphone, your web channels and blogs are powerful and strong instruments in changing the narrative of whatever issues that is out there to the public.”
Speaking on the impact of the pandemic on children and women, Dr. Obasi Chikezie, Community Medicine Department, ESUT Teaching Hospital, Enugu said, “a new world order is upon us as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of this is the reality we face today, COVID-19 impact on mothers and children is huge. It has affected education, social wellbeing, economy, health, child right, nutrition. There is need for mass vaccination, and children should be included.”
Also speaking, the communication officer, UNICEF Enugu, Dr. Ijeoma Onuoha Ogwe, said the media plays a huge role in the response process by circulating information, influencing publics’ behavior and curtailing the spread of disease.
Onuoha-Ogwe urged journalists to act as a bridge for people in need to reach health officials and the local government for their problems.
She reiterated that, “UNICEF is a leading advocate for children’s right, active in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive from early childhood through adolescence.”
Commending UNICEF and BCA for the event, Mr. Alphonsus Agborh, a journalist from Delta State described the meeting as, “awesome, it’s amazing, there are so many things even as journalists that we didn’t know before, we got to know them now, especially in the area of vaccination and the myths that surrounds the vaccination itself.
“The resource person that took us actually straightened the whole record, that it is safe and that no death has been so far recorded as a result of COVID-19 vaccination in the country, I think that is a plus.”
“It is good for everybody to take it, whether the elderly, whether you are a child, it is advisable that you take it.”
Agborh further stated that ignorance is the reason many have refused to take the vaccine, “you see, when you are not informed you are deformed, I don’t think they are properly informed, there is no enough sensitization about COVID itself and COVID vaccination, everybody is afraid that COVID-19 is a deadly disease but I can tell you that where I am come from, people had COVID-19 and they were actually quarantined for the normal period of two weeks at the end of the day they came out nothing has happened.
“It’s as a result of ignorance and lack of proper sensitization, that is why the rural folks are afraid.”
He encouraged UNICEF to, “send message to those in the state, local government, traditional rulers and churches, they know how to go about it for the message to get to the grassroot so that people will not be afraid and they will come out to embrace the vaccination.”