LEADERSHIP DURING STRIFE: The Bishop’s Tale
Bishop Njoku feels the weight of his responsibilities as the pandemic persists
Feb. 9, 2021
In turbulent times, Bishop David Njoku keenly feels the burden of the mantle. As Bishop of the Apostolic Church of Christ, Oduma-Achara, Aninri LGA, Enugu State, he represents hope and guidance for his flock. “A lot of people depend on us, the church, for information and directives,” he says.
The 67-year-old Bishop is particularly concerned about the economic impact of COVID-19 on Oduma-Achara, a small agrarian village with two lakes that dry out during harmattan, and no functional water facilities. “COVID-19 was a very big challenge to our people; it affected our farming and harvesting. To the extent that our women sold a basin of Okro for N150 (39 cents).” The hardship and scarcity of water has created some unusual items of luxury; GP water tanks are now highly prized among indigenes living in Oduma, and are even requested as part of the bride price. Bishop Njoku worries that the people are not taking hygiene seriously to prevent more outbreaks and other diseases. With a wife and 8 children of his own, he is understandably invested in maintaining hygiene protocol, constantly reminding people to wash their hands before entering the church premises. Yet generally in Oduma hygiene is poor. Open defecation is still widely practiced, and handwashing is only observed in school, at the Igwe’s palace and in church.
File Image: A young woman wondering about the next step as the lake has dried up
The intervention by WaterAid and SSDO could not have come at a better time. The Scale Up Hygiene Project, sponsored by the Heineken Africa Foundation, targeted 6 states including Enugu for the promotion of hygiene messages in response to COVID-19. The project utilized radio and TV jingles featuring prominent traditional and religious leaders urging Enugu residents to take the pandemic seriously, wash their hands and wear face-masks. In addition, the jingles were aired in markets in 6 different LGAs coupled with the distribution of IEC materials with instructions on hand-washing, safe waste disposal and other beneficial hygiene behaviours. Hygiene packs were equally distributed to vulnerable households in 7 LGAs.
Bishop Njoku is pleased with the positive response to the messages. “Because of the sensitization, radio programs and IEC materials provided for us, we were able to teach them proper handwashing which they practiced despite the scarcity of water. Our children have also learnt how to use face masks. Our knowledge of hygiene has increased.” However, he notes that access to clean, drinking water is still a major challenge to reinforcing hygiene behaviours, and calls on the state government to urgently install water facilities to help improve the quality of life in Oduma-Achara.