We start off with our inaugural newsletter in December 2020 for the Nigeria Coalition on Ecosocial Health Research (NCEHR). Although we have been existing as a group since 2018, using the non-virtual mode with an overarching goal of knowledge into action, we moved to the virtual mode in 2020 with some social media presence, such as Twitter and Facebook despite the year’s unparalleled events. The year 2020 has been an interesting year, nationally and globally for every person and calls for personal and group reflections at all levels as well as bring to bear on the important things that matter. We must continue to see the need to think about our work with local and global communities.
As a community and academic researchers in the global South, we need to assess how and why we need to continue the journey of knowledge to action. Global events, such as climate change, COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives movement, and vaccine nationalism with their interrelating links with local events, such as the #EndSars movement, which was a social movement that came with mass demonstrations across major towns in Nigeria has exposed, highlighted, and exacerbated sociostructural inequalities. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown gaps across national social systems of the global South and North countries. In Nigeria, the pandemic has continued to expose structural (dis)advantages, which are maintained and intensified through unequal relations of power, opportunities, rights, and rules. The advantages come with associated privileges, while the disadvantages set up oppressing conditions and outcomes that descend, stimulate, and promote unhealthy systemic environment(s) that have continued to impact individual’s and communities’ (population) social determinants of health. Communities in Anambra State, Nigeria have seen oppressing community outcomes during the pandemic, such as educational inequalities that revealed a gap in the technological mode of instructing between private and public institutions across all levels, economic inequalities that translated to income and job losses within the informal sectors (e.g., tradesmen and artisans), gender inequalities exposed burdens of unpaid care and gender violence worsened by patriarchal culture, and food insecurity with increased cost pressures and worsened poverty amid feeding children, who were not in schools at the time of lockdown in Nigeria. However, these socio-structural disadvantages should stimulate intentional inquiries within a social determinant of health framework (eco-social lens) to expose health disparities and gaps as well as encourage knowledge production from those with the lived experiences. Using bottom-top approaches, such as community-based research can engage, mobilize, and involve communities who can participate and collaborate with the invited academia to produce corresponding action(s).
Generally, the pandemic has stimulated learned lessons with the potential to unlearn and relearn experiences and the way-forward. NCEHR, as a community-based, inter-university, and inter-disciplinary group of collaborating researchers from the community and the academia partner to mutually produce knowledge for ecosocial justice. Within our individual and collective responsibility, we will anchor on hope to carry on work(s) that are result and solution-oriented despite adverse complex situations, to focus on purposeful convictions geared toward collaborating work(s) in Anambra state and beyond. While we reflect, back and forth, on how to make changes within our diversities, we aim to work with persons and communities who have invited us to work with them against unjust structures using social empowering and sustainable interventional approaches and effect changes.
Next Level on NCEHR
As an inquiry group in Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa, we grapple with challenges, such as capacity, and funding, but we continue to hope amid the prevailing challenges. Our activities may be dulled by the unprecedented pandemic, but we continue working knowing that our favored break shall come. The process may be long, tedious, and arduous; however, we will not stop, because we do not know where or when our break shall come.
In line with the corporate affairs commission (CAC) policy, there may be the need to reflect and consider another name, which may not be NCEHR in line with CAC policy. However, the change of name will be subject to the availability of another proposed name. We shall keep us informed as we progress and other processes that will need to be ensured to enable the right naming in line with organizational standards and guidelines.
We are writing a module on climate change in Nigeria (see our currents updates on the NCEHR website). We need more researchers to team with the lead. Also, we need to continue to explore our research areas of interest by being visible online as well as our continuing relationships with the communities across different ecosocial themes of community work within Anambra state, such as vulnerable individuals and groups. NCEHR members operate as outsider-within and insider-outsider experts; the outsider-within are the people working within their own communities while the insider-outsider are those operating from the academy and not from the community. We keep pushing because all we have to do will not take place in one swoop. See you next year 2021.
We hope to be finalizing our NCEHR webinar series by next year, which will be done every quarter. Definitely, we shall keep us informed of this step, but do not hesitate to send your ideas to this newsletter to Ngozi and George at email@example.com.
However, permit us to wish every one of us, individuals and the communities with us, a beautiful Christmas holiday and an uncommon prosperous new year in 2021. We are excited about the new year.
Ngozi Joe-Ikechebelu and George Eleje