Assessment Of Public Relations Effectiveness On Monkey Pox Scare In Awka Metropolis

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Assessment Of Public Relations Effectiveness On Monkey Pox Scare In Awka Metropolis

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The fear and death posed to Nigerians by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), in the months of July to December 2014, will remain indelible in the annals of Nigerian history. Throughout the West Africa region, particularly from Liberia, the Ebola scourge left in its wake thousands of death. With all the stunning casualties associated with the HIV/AIDS, Ebola’s ravaging pandemic destructive tendencies of Nigerians’ psychic, human development and the economy temporally made the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents seem forgotten scallywags. Then, more than 22 countries revoked visas granted to Nigerians, cancelled business memoranda, international travel bans, not only were the health of Nigerian citizens in jeopardy, the economy faced disintegration and national development stagnated.

The endemic disease, monkey pox, though strange to Nigerians; however, in September 2017 became new natural occurrence in Nigeria which erupted with destructive force. The ferocious outbreak of the monkey pox, like epidemic catastrophe or devastative thunder bolt caught Nigerians unaware. Unlike meteorite, monkey pox did not fall from the sky, out of nowhere; it started in central part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970’s. The first recorded case of the dreaded disease in Nigeria was through a man who killed a monkey and ate the meat with members of his family in Bayelsa state. This became the primary or index case before infecting others. Like harmattan wild fire, monkey pox spread to Anambra, particularly the capital city of the state, Akwa in the South-Eastern geo-political zone, Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State in the South-South geo-political zone. Besides a patient who committed suicide, luckily no confirmed death has been reported; however, the havoc and pandemonium created by monkey pox which is still raging as the time of this research are certain to leave indelible marks in the annals of Nigeria’s public health.

In some regions in south eastern states, like Anambra state, Akwa and its environs to be precise rumours were rife with soldiers forcing their way into primary and secondary schools to forcefully inoculate children with monkey pox vaccination. The fear of sinister motives and lack of initial proper sensitization created state of fear and stampede when parents broke down school gates and scaled to withdraw their wards, Vanguard (Wednesday, October 18, 2017).

Monkey pox is a blood transmitted disease and also comes through vomit, and sweat of an infected victim. Symptoms include high fever and diarrhoea. Health scholars noted that most effective measure in preventing the spread of the disease is through strategic public health mandates, such good infection control practices include isolation, quarantine, contract tracking, provision of health staff protective gear, government monitoring and media sensitization. Public relations awareness through media in form of campaigns become very pertinent because Nigerians, being used to culture of hugging, handshakes, elaborate family greetings, clustered tenements, close-quarter worships, perceive monkey pox, like Ebola as instant death sentence. With the spread of dreadful, contagious diseases as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, anti-biotic resistant tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases; appropriate health communication is now a prominent global concern. Sridhar (1991) opined that: Public health considerations is about the most significant of disposal of the dead because, the ultimate purpose of public health is to control diseases, promote health and prolong life. Improper disposal of the dead poses a serious health hazard, especially when death is due to epidemics and communicable disease. The problem is worse in populous tropical countries. Improper disposal of the dead makes bodies become reservoirs of infection.

The increasing demand and objectives of healthy living, longevity highlight and illustrate the importance of effective public health communication. Relevance of which can never be over emphasized considering that virtually every knowledge, solution to human health, well-being, including disease prevention, affordable health care, clamour for universal health insurance, rural community health programs, antenatal /infant health concerns, health promotion, quality of life and new discoveries depend on effective media dissemination of health information. The dreadful experience of the Ebola scourge and now the monkey pox virus have sharpened any blurred vision of Nigeria’s public health officials, joining global community in seeking competencies, professional capacity building, and acquisition of latest information to effectively quell outbreaks of deadly contagious diseases. The clamour and prominence for public health information orchestrated by the monkey pox virus seem urgent because of contemporaneous vital public health, national development implications and imperatives. Obviously, no nation of sick citizens could muster any meaningful development when such ravaging plague as monkey pox can jeopardize national security. Deadly contagious virus as monkey pox, Ebola, HIV/AIDS can paralyse, devastate the workforce, educational, political, economic, social milieu and developmental aspirations of precariously fledgling democracy as Nigeria.

The need to create composite public relations to sensitize, inform, educate, mobilize citizens of preventable measures to evade the spread of deadly plagues as monkey pox, require professional journalistic devotion, serious commitment, investigative journalism commitment, humanitarian sensitivity in reporting public health. Besides the creation of media awareness of public health consciousness and preventive measures, the prerogative of public health communication is crucial in compelling the public to come to terms to the realities, dangers, demerits of careless unsanitary, slum dwelling and potential benefits of clean, curative, healthy existence. Since communication is the pivotal, rallying point and hollering centre-piece in championing effective public health communication, excellent health communication strategies should evolve in the realm creating maximum good health benefits in the society; cheating death to prolong human life. No doubt, Dudley Dorothy, American writer in Seldes (1985) noted, “The strongest desire known to human life is to continue living. The next strongest is to use the instruments by which life is generated for its own rewards, not for the sake of generation. The third potent desire is to excel and be acknowledged.”

Despite the efforts of environmental, social and psychological influences on behaviour and health, global challenges posed by contagious diseases, health communication scholars and practitioners recognize the importance of prevention in health care systems. The need to understand health-conscious human behaviour, perceptions, social norms, emotions and fear of uncertainty in health issues through competent public health relations awareness is the focus of this qualitative discourse.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

After passing through horrendous deaths and fear of extinction during the 2014 Ebola plague, Nigerians are shocked that in October 2017, they are faced with another deadly virus by the name Monkey Pox. To compound, incite national fear and anxiety, some people (saboteurs) utilized the social media as Facebook, Instagram, whatsapp as rumour mongering tool to demoralize the populace; that soldiers were forcefully vaccinating school children against monkey box. This propaganda spread like harmattan fire which stated that the government deployed the forced vaccination exercise to depopulate the South-East and South- South geopolitical zones of Nigerian. In chaotic droves, parents scampered through fences, broke school gates to evacuate their children from various schools, forcing temporal closure of several primary and secondary schools. This chaotic scenario depict lack of sensitivity, sensualisation, creation of appropriate public relations awareness by the government, particularly at a time when government soldiers recently killed some Igbos in the South-East and proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and thereafter launched a medical outreach. The implication is the existence of communication gap between the government and the masses. It is on this foundation that this study seeks to assess public relations effectiveness on monkey pox scare in Awka metropolis.

1.3 Research Objectives

The study has both general objective and specific objectives. The general objective or main objective of this study is to assess public relations effectiveness on monkey pox scare in Awka metropolis.

The specific objectives are:

  1. To study the implications of monkey pox virus disease in Nigeria
  2. To identify how monkey pox virus disease can be prevented in Nigeria
  3. To determine the prevalence of monkey pox virus disease through public relations

1.4 Research Questions

The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:

  1. What are the implications of monkey pox virus disease in Nigeria?
  2. What are the ways in which monkey pox virus disease can be prevented in Nigeria?
  3. What is the prevalence of monkey pox virus disease through public relations?

1.5 Significance of Study

This study assesses public relations effectiveness on monkey pox scare in Awka metropolis therefore the study will be beneficial to both the Federal and State government in finding preventive solutions to any epidemic disease that may suddenly surface in the country. Also, the Ministry of Health, Environment and Education will find this study helpful. It will as well contribute to academic literature in the area of Public Health and Public Administration.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This study will be carried out in Anambra State, Akwa and its environs. This will mostly focused on the secondary schools in Akwa metropolis. This is because the study seeks to assess public relations effectiveness on monkey pox scare in Awka metropolis.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

The researcher encountered some challenges in the course of carrying out the field work but the main challenge was the constraint that worked against the optimal realization of what the researcher sets out to achieve. It includes:

Cost Limitation:

There was a cost limitation. This means that the researcher could not offer any gift or monetary incentives for the respondents to answer the questionnaire. This might have resulted in certain prospective respondents choosing not to respond to the questionnaire. This might not have created a motivation among respondents not to take a chance to give opinions.

1.8 Definition of Terms

Monkey Pox:

Is highly contagious and transmitted through blood, vomit, and sweat of an infected victim. Its primary index infestation is from infected monkeys to humans. Symptoms include high fever, diarrhoea and similar but bigger bumps than chicken pox. Public relations in this study are reflective of Nigerian newspapers with the inclusion of books, magazines, radio, and television or internet communication.

Public Relations:

Is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public. It includes reportage from several print and media houses in the country.

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