Over 72,000 Cameroonian refugees living in Nigeria, the world was confused when the pandemic came; refugees was confused too. The fleeing conflict between secessionist forces and the army since 2017. However, there are so many thoughts about it as quoted by ‘Labon Chang Ndoh.’
Laban is the President of the Great Step Initiative (GSI). This community-based organization then delivers mental health services to the refugees in the five districts of Nigeria’s Cross River State.
In 2020, as COVID-19 spread, their network of 120 draftees turned into action to fight the misinformation that followed in its wake.
At first, they had a lot of questions in their mind, said Laban. Their efforts mostly entailed convincing people that there is a threat posed by the virus and the need for preventative measures such as wearing proper masks and using handwash.
Last year, in 2021, GSI was one of the seven refugees-led organizations remembered for their role in responding to the pandemic in UNHCR 2020,’ NGO Innovation Awards’.
Some people were also spreading false rumours that taking the vaccine is the same as that you are entering the gate of heaven means ‘Death’.
While the COVID-19 vaccines innovated and arrived in the country, the hope is developed that it would remove the pandemic, rather than that it brought fresh waves of rumour and myth.
Furthermore, Laban stated that we don’t have much knowledge about the vaccines and their side effects in starting.
Some were saying that people will die after 24 months or 36 months if they take the vaccine, and others had heard of microchips in the vaccine that would connect the person with Lucifer, dooming them to hell.”
They made several efforts to make tangible results among Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria. However, the stock of vaccines was limited and kept the vaccination rates low, in line with many other low and middle-income refugees host countries. More than 1800 refugees have received one shot in Benue, Cross River and Taraba states, in addition to around 700 who have received two doses.
As per resources, Labon goes from door to door in the Adagom refugee’s camps just to convince them to take the vaccine. However, despite their efforts, there is still much work to be done.
In the market, Labon met with Effemi Blessing, who runs a small grocery store that was established with her family with the financial support from UNHCR through its partner CUSO. She told Labon that she was strong, but she did not take her vaccination, and she was even afraid to take it, and Labon took her time to listen to her concerns and carefully explain the safety of the vaccine in the hope of changing one more mind.