Authorities in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, have announced that 500,000 trees will be planted in the state to honor the frontline healthcare professionals on behalf of the Nigerian people for their valuable work in the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare workers in Lagos have been battling COVID-19 since Feb. 27, when the state reported its first confirmed case.
Lagos, now the epicenter of the outbreak in Nigeria, had 11,827 infections as of Thursday. Countrywide, there were more than 30,000 confirmed cases.
“These trees will outlive us to remind the generation to come of the strides of those heroes of today and to further poise them into taking measures to sustainably use the environment,” said Adetoun Popoola, general manager of the Lagos State Park and Gardens Agency, at a news conference on Thursday.
The agency would plant trees in all the COVID-19 isolation centers in the state to stand as signposts to the resilience of the frontline workers, she said.
On July 1, the state government started the distribution of free seedlings to all the 20 local government areas in readiness for July 14, the state’s tree planting day.
Health workers deserve commendation, being the first set of people to raise awareness on COVID-19 and its preventive measures, said Emmanuel Ugboaja of the Nigeria Labor Congress.
When Nigerians saw health workers putting on face masks, they become aware of the seriousness of the virus and the need to stay safe, he said.
Some criticized the tree-planting drive as a “facade,” urging the government to provide more personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies to better protect frontline health workers fighting the pandemic.
“Planting trees looks like a facade to me,” said Ore Emala, a Lagos-based medical doctor. “Health workers would appreciate it if these trees are replaced with better welfare, PPE and allowances.”
Udeme Isaac, who works at one of the biggest hospitals in Lagos, said most health workers are worried, not because of the disease itself, but because of Nigeria’s large population, high levels of poverty, and most importantly, the shortage of healthcare workers, health infrastructure and facilities.
King Jeremiah, a registered nurse, said planting of trees is fine as it helps save the ecosystem, but the government should come up with insurance policies that will benefit all instead of tree planting.