Original Research

“Better to die of disease than die of hunger”: the experience of Igwes (traditional rulers) in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in rural South-east Nigeria

AUTHORS

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Prince Chiagozie Ekoh1
MSc, Teaching Fellow *

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Chukwuemeka Ejimkaraonye2
MSc, Postgraduate Student

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Elizabeth Onyedikachi George3
MSc, Teaching Fellow

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Patricia Uju Agbawodikeizu4
MSc, Teaching Fellow

AFFILIATIONS

1 Department of Social Work, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu 410001, Nigeria; and Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, Canada

2 Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu 410001, Nigeria

3 Department of Social Work, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu 410001, Nigeria; and VID Specialized University, Olso, Norway

4 Department of Social Work, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu 410001, Nigeria

ACCEPTED: 13 August 2021

Prince Chiagozie Ekoh: the role of traditional rulers in the fight against COVID-19 in rural Nigeria


early abstract:

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious health and socioeconomic impacts on people all over the world. It was expected that Africa would be the hardest hit; consequently, Nigeria and other African nations worked with non-government organizations to institute a framework for controlling the spread of the disease and the resultant economic woes. The measures, however, largely focused on the urban centres, whereas the spread of the virus and the disease has transcended imported urban cases to rural community spread. This study explored the experiences of traditional rulers who are closest to the rural people in the fight against COVID-19. 
Methods: Qualitative research design was adopted and data were collected from eight traditional rulers using interviews. The collected data were coded inductively using Nvivo12 and were then analysed thematically.
Results: Findings showed that the traditional rulers adopted measures such as the use of town criers to sensitize rural people about COVID-19. Findings also revealed that the protection measures have led to increased economic hardship for rural people in Nigeria. Scepticism about the existence of the virus and widespread poverty were found to be the major hindrances in the fight against the pandemic.
Conclusion: The study was concluded with recommendations for traditional rulers to collaborate with the government to make free protective equipment available for poor rural people, and to collaborate with the youth and religious leaders to properly fight infodemic through continuous community education and sensitization.