COVID-19 response – boosting testing capacity and supporting vaccination
Sep 01, 2022
At the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the Shell Companies in Nigeria took a strategic decision to support Nigeria in fighting the spread of the virus.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCiN) have worked to help protect staff, contractors and the communities where we operate, while also supporting the Nigerian state and federal governments.
SCiN have donated ambulances, ventilators, testing machines and kits, medical consumables and personal protection equipment to many Nigerian states. We have also contributed financially to the purchase of vaccines for Nigerians through the COVAX programme and launched community education and vaccination campaigns, reaching thousands of people.
In addition to donations of critical equipment and supplies, SCiN contractors and employees set up free meal provision programmes in isolation centres for COVID-19 infected individuals in seven states. The programmes hinged on partnership – collaboration with the state governments, non-government organisations and certified caterers - to provide freshly cooked meals daily to patients and health-care workers at the isolation centres.
This scheme provided over 50,000 meals to infected individuals. Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), commended SCiN for their critical support to the country’s response activities to COVID-19, which echoed SCiN’s support during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
“The support from Shell Companies in Nigeria came at a crucial time. It enabled NCDC to access medical and laboratory supplies and accelerated creation of testing capacity for COVID-19. We look forward to developing our collaboration further, for outbreak preparedness and response,” said Dr. Ihekweazu.
Here, Dr. Akinwumi Fajola, who leads The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited’s (SPDC) approach to supporting health in communities, discusses how SCiN responded to the pandemic:
What support did SCiN provide to communities during 2020 and 2021?
Health for SPDC is about what we do inside the fence and outside the fence. At the outbreak of COVID-19, SCiN took a strategic decision to support Nigeria in fighting the spread of the virus. We boosted the testing capacity of the country. We helped set up molecular laboratories with diagnostic testing machines, with other medical equipment, with ambulances. We also helped disseminate information through Shell-sponsored radio programme, Canvas, to the public.
In 2021, what was a highlight for you in the SCiN COVID-19 response?
We were able to play a major role in raising awareness in the communities about the importance of receiving vaccination against COVID-19. There was a great deal of misinformation out there and people were worried about the vaccines.
We used our communications channels to provide vital, accurate information and encouraged people to get the vaccine. In the Niger Delta, we used our existing local radio programme to mobilise communities to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
We hosted leaders from the community, local government and faith-based organisations who provided information about the vaccines. This helped us play a valuable role in eradicating misinformation and myths about COVID-19 vaccine.
SCiN helped boost the testing capacity in Nigeria. How was this achieved?
When the pandemic hit, Nigeria had very few biomolecular laboratories and these had limited testing capabilities. We quickly responded to assist the NCDC in overcoming this challenge.
We supported the development of nine additional labs across Nigeria, providing three PCR machines and other critical equipment to help with testing and contact tracing. We have also helped these labs significantly to reduce the amount of time it takes to get a test result.
What else makes you proud when you think back on the COVID-19 response?
Something that I will never forget is how our own staff made donations to COVID-19 isolation centres to help feed those who were sheltering. SCiN matched staff contributions and then doubled this.
Together, as a business, we enabled people to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. It wasn’t just those isolating. Our donations helped the health workers, the ambulance drivers and the cleaners. We were literally putting our money where our mouth was.