People around the world will gather to celebrate nurses and midwives as part of this year’s World Health Day. No one could have foreseen that this theme would be especially relevant this year, as nurses provide the first line of defence against the spread of the Coronavirus and midwives serve a high-risk population and are often responsible for two lives instead of one. Countries, states, businesses, corporations, workers, families, young and old are all in one way or another heavily affected by the restrictions that come with battling the novel coronavirus.
While some of us can afford to self-isolate, take long breaks from work and can generally practice the best kind of social distancing, health-care workers, nurses and midwives are essential workers, who must stay on the job and put in long hours in hospitals and at quarantine/isolation centres to ensure the sick are cared for.
It is important to acknowledge the brilliant, selfless and heroic work these women and men all around the world, especially in Nigeria, are doing. But it is not enough to acknowledge their work. It is not enough to call them powerful or heroic, we must move beyond platitudes and come to terms with our collective embattlement and begin to actively assist the work nurses and midwives put in.
In its statement for WHD, the World Health Organization explains its motivations for dedicating this year’s commemorations to increasing visibility for nurses and midwives, “7 April 2020 is the day to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives and remind world leaders of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy. Nurses and other health workers are at the forefront of COVID-19 response – providing high quality, respectful treatment, and care, leading community dialogue to address fears and questions and, in some instances, collecting data for clinical studies. Quite simply, without nurses, there would be no response.”
Speaking on this year’s theme and the need for unreserved support for health workers across board, Medplus MD Joke Bakare, had this to say “We are in extremely trying times for both our physical and mental wellbeing. With each passing day, many young men and women selflessly brave this virus and it is impressive to see what they are doing. The state of the world remains truly uncertain, we are all somewhat uneasy, but we must all commit to fighting this virus. We have evidence to prove that this virus can be contained and we must do our best, in any way we can, to contain it and restore the balance we once knew.” She also pointed out the necessity of engaging in simple, home-friendly exercises during this period.
“Exercises and workouts such as squats, short jogs, planks, and push-ups help keep the body fit and avoid blood clots.”
As one of Nigeria’s leading pharmacists and healthcare experts, Mrs. Bakare understands health goes beyond physical fitness. She advised on the merits of preserving our mental health by avoiding triggering material in the news and exaggerated, unverified information that can accelerate anxiety and cause paranoia. “A key part of what it means to be human today is to have to grapple with so many mental strains. The conversation around guarding our mental space has been ongoing even before this pandemic, while we are in it and it will continue when we overcome it. As individuals looking out for each other’s wellbeing, we must be prepared to manage the trauma, the depression and anxieties that will be carried over from this devastating period.”
This year, World Health Day carries real-world significance for everyone. It stands as a reminder of the monumental revamp our healthcare system needs to undergo. As corporations, it is an opportunity to channel our efforts at corporate responsibility on the health sector; how it can be assisted towards sustainability, how we can enable access for customers, clients, and employees, and recognizing the importance of wellbeing. And as individuals, this is a reminder of our humanity, of the need to be responsible with our personal health and the hygiene of everyone around us. This is a time to commit to playing our part and sticking to that commitment.
We can play a more proactive part by following the stipulated health guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization. We must maintain a high level of hygiene, sanitize regularly, continue to maintain a healthy distance from our social circles and remain conscious of our physical and mental health.
It is also up to us all to do the best we can to keep this virus at bay. On this World Health Day, we must support each other, participate in the best safety practices and stay conscious.