COVID-19 has ravaged Europe and the United States. On November 1st, these two regions had a combined 25 million cases and over 600,000 deaths. For every one of those deaths, there are mourning family members and broken lives, and for every major milestone, more businesses closed, and more careers ended.
In Africa, there were fewer than 2 million cases and 44,000 deaths. On the surface, it looks like Africa escaped the worst of it, at the time of writing at least, but the clutches of COVID gripped this continent very early on and have been tightening ever since.
Folabi Clement Solanke, the co-founder of nonprofit organization GENERATIONS Nigeria, has witnessed these issues first-hand and is imploring Americans to look out as well as in.
The Issues in Nigeria
Nigeria is the richest and most populous country in Africa, and many predict that it will one day become a superpower capable of rivaling modern America, Russia, and China. It serves as the perfect example of just how hard COVID has hit this continent and it’s also a country that Folabi Clement Solanke knows well.
The Arizona-based entrepreneur has spent several years working closely with rural Nigerian communities. He has arranged events and sports tournaments; supplied food and water. He visits the country several times a year to monitor the progress of his charitable endeavors and during December, he makes the most important visit of all.
“This is usually when we stage an annual soccer tournament,” he says. “It raises awareness and helps to funnel some money into the country, which is then used to supply food, water, and medicine while helping to improve the dilapidated schools and educate the next generation.
I still have extended family members there, so after every tournament, we fly everyone back and have a big Christmas and New Year. This year, thanks to COVID-19, our flights were canceled, and we had to postpone the tournament”.
It highlights an issue that many have overlooked, which is that these communities often rely on outside support, and because of the pandemic, most of that has been taken away.
“Imagine relying on welfare not just for your housing and clothing, but also for your food, water, and basic supplies. Then, out of the blue, all of that money is taken away, you’re told that no one can help you, and you also have the threat of a pandemic to worry about. That’s the situation that many Nigerians are in right now”.
Helping From a Distance
Solanke has been forced to work from afar, contacting food banks and running online campaigns to ensure that starving and needy Nigerian children continue to receive support.
The 29-year-old philanthropist worries that this is just the calm before the storm. If Nigeria suddenly sees an uptick in cases, as many are predicting, its hospitals will be crowded, its limited medical supplies will deplete, and the country will be brought to its knees.
Not only will COVID-19 patients struggle to find the care they need, but patients suffering from other ailments won’t be afforded the level of care that they need to survive.
“It terrifies me,” Solanke admits. “I am in regular contact with my extended family members. They are staying upbeat, probably for my sake, but it’s getting scary out there. The US is the richest country in the world, and we’ve struggled. Imagine how much worse off Nigeria would be.”
Solanke is right to worry. The US has around 2.8 hospital beds for every 1,000 members of the population, Nigeria has just 1.2. It also has fewer physicians and less than 200 ventilators, whereas the United States has stockpiled nearly 100,000 of these crucial machines.
There are pretty bleak times ahead for Nigeria but Solanke isn’t giving up. The 29-year-old is working around the clock to ease the burden that his ancestral home is facing, and he is calling for others to support him.