For the true understanding of the term ‘palliative’, we need to understand its place in healthcare where the word originated. Having become central at the present economic situation and especially how is been applied, the word now seem to be misunderstood.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), palliative care is defined as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psycho-social and spiritual” It is the comprehensive care of the individual who is considered as having a body, soul, spirit and family members who require support.
On the economic side, palliative are given to citizens who are expected to experience or are experiencing a negative or life threatening impact of an occurrence since the situation cannot be changed at the moment. In this regard, such people have body, soul, spirit and family to care for.
The current pandemic is a shock to the world over with every country having their own share of the ugly situation. This was never envisaged by anybody and so rapidly took the globe unaware. What is now important is fighting it and coping with the fallout.
The central fallout is that economic activities is abruptly brought to a halt. With this, means of livelihood of people is suspended. Nobody is shielded from this impact however with varying degree. What is most important in this and we must know is that at present the situation bite some people harder than others. The high income earners cannot feel it as hard as the middle income earners do and those in the middle income level cope fairly better than the low income earners. It now depend on the economic group one belongs to.
In Nigeria, the high income earners occupies a little fraction of the population (5%) while the middle income earners are about 25%. The remaining bulk of 70% are either low income earners or the unemployed.
The defining factor between these groups is the amount of reserve in form of ‘savings’ that they hold. While the high and middle income earners are able to live even without earning for as long as 2 months and even above, the low income earners dominated by the ‘daily hustlers’ would hardly survive another day without earning.
In the current situation, this group which occupies the largest 70% did not worked for 2 weeks and will not work for another 2 weeks. They have ‘body, soul, spirit and family to care for’. In this case, economic palliatives therefore need to be provided to enable them live for the period or with even a little extension to enable them pick up after the lock down.
Top government officials like the Minister of Information and the Lagos State Governor have used the term ‘less privileged’ and ‘poorest of the poor’ as those eligible for the provision of government. Where does the term ‘less privileged’ fit in this situation? The whole economy is on a standstill, people are not ‘privileged’ to work to earn a living. This is not a situation where there is opportunity to work and some are not able to work either due to ill health or age or environmental disposition. This is a case of general deprivation and honesty demand that there is a general attention.
Sharing of food vs cash palliative
Truly, palliative can either be direct or indirect. Direct palliative comes either in form of food or cash. In as much as food is so important, we must understand that food is not the only need of human no matter the situation including war. There are other pressing needs that must be attended to.
The wife of the keke rider just gave birth shortly before the lockdown; he need to buy the young food, multivitamins, diaper, refill gas and other vital things. That man doesn’t only need food but he look forward to receiving cash to take care of these needs.
My biggest curiosity is why the government decided to reduce the direct palliative to ‘humanitarian aid’ meant for the ‘poorest of the poor’ and the ‘less privileged’ as if the government is now an NGO or the rest members of the low income earners are not harshly affected by the lockdown. Let me humbly say here that palliative in this situation, everyone who is affected by the situation should at least be accommodated in the palliative distribution.
Talking about distribution, I have witnessed where food was supposedly be distribution. That scenario did not match the way food items were distributed during the election where bags of rice, detergents, semovita, oil and other personal effects were sent directly to households. That environment was a perfect setup for coronavirus to spread.
On the side of cash, government has continuously play down the perfect channel through which cash can be sent to individuals. Am not sure whether those without bank account in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja ‘where the lockdown is total is up to 10%. Wouldn’t it have been better if government just reach those low income earners through their bank accounts with the aid of the BVN.