We are doing our part — but without vaccines we have no chance to stop this pandemic“

Dr. Salih M. Auwal, Shinkafi, Nigeria

I am responsible in our clinic for ensuring that no one brings in COVID-19. So far, we have succeeded. Every patient is screened and tested. As a result, we have detected quite a few cases. Of course, I’m always a little worried of catching it myself. But we have enough protective equipment in our clinic. The situation is different in the state clinics. There, to this day, the staff do not have sufficient masks, sometimes not even gloves.

Dr. Salih M. Auwal works in an MSF clinic in Shinkafi, Zamara State of Nigeria. © MSF/Abayomi Akande

In Nigeria, if you come as a patient with suspected COVID-19 to the admissions department of a state hospital, you are not treated immediately. First you have to bring gloves and masks yourself. Many colleagues in state hospitals have been infected. Nevertheless, they continue because we as doctors and nurses have a duty to the people here. We are doing our part to stop this pandemic, for Nigeria and for the world. But we don’t stand a chance if the politicians who decide on the vaccines let us down.

I have heard about the high vaccination rates in some European countries and in other places too. I am pleased about that. I’m a doctor, I don’t discriminate according to where patients come from. Therefore, every high-risk patient who is vaccinated is good news for me. But I do wonder: What about the high-risk patients in my own country? Nigeria has now received 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX Facility. That’s good, certainly. But it’s only enough to vaccinate 2 million people out of a total population of 210 million people — less than one percent.

It’s not easy to fight COVID-19 here. Not just because of the lack of protective equipment. For example, in the government clinic near us in the city, there is no oxygen at all, for anyone. If you are a patient with a severe COVID-19, you simply have poor chances of survival. Especially in areas like this, shouldn’t people be protected as quickly as possible?

The pandemic has hit us all, in all countries. Let’s defeat it all together, too! There is no other way. Why haven’t all the factories around the world that are somehow able to do so joined together in the global production of vaccines? Every day that too few vaccines are produced costs human lives, in Nigeria and in many countries of the global south.

MSF runs a number of services in the general hospitals in Shinkafi and Zurmi in the northwest of Nigeria. © MSF/Abayomi Akande

As a physician, I am committed to acting solely in the best interests of people. No other interest shall influence my decisions. But whether people here can be vaccinated or not, whether soon or in two years from now, does not depend on my decision. It is decided far away for us, about us. I can only appeal to those who are responsible for it: Don’t forget that we are also fighting the virus here. Help me to help people and to end the pandemic.

Dr. Salih M. Auwal graduated from Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Nigeria in 2018 with credits in paediatrics. He worked in Zamfara State for the Ministry of Health, before joining MSF in 2019 as a medical consultant.

This article first appeared May 2 in several Swiss and German newspapers including the Tagblatt newspaper

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