01:47 - Source: CNN
Nigerian citizen: I prefer to die from Covid-19 than hunger

Editor’s Note: Covid Heroes and Newsmakers” is a weekly social media series featuring interviews with Africans driving strategy as the continent faces Covid-19. Watch on CNN Africa Instagram.

Lagos, Nigeria CNN —  

Nigerian medical delivery company Lifebank has launched two drive-through mobile testing centers to boost coronavirus testing numbers in the country.

The test centers, built like restaurant drive-throughs, are located in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center, and Oyo, in the southwest of the country. Lifebank says it launched the free testing centers in partnership with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR).

Nigeria has 1,273 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of April 26, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the country’s leading national public health institute responsible for collating data and responding to suspected cases of the virus.

Drive through mobile test center in Lagos, Nigeria
Temie Giwa-Tubosun
Drive through mobile test center in Lagos, Nigeria

The NCDC has tested more than 10,000 samples to date in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and home to an estimated 195 million people according to the World Bank. Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder of Lifebank, said she was inspired to start the mobile test centers when she decided that the country was not testing enough people for the virus.

“I read too much about the virus and got anxious. I realized that testing was a problem so I started to think up ways to get more people tested for the virus,” she told CNN.

Drive-through coronavirus test centers

Lifebank has received funding from stakeholders in Nigeria including Sterling Bank, UTL Trust, Rising Tide, and the Daystar Center, which means it can provide the tests for free.

NIMR staff at Lifebank's mobile test center in Oyo state, Nigeria
Temie Giwa-Tubosun
NIMR staff at Lifebank's mobile test center in Oyo state, Nigeria

Residents register first on the NIMR website where they are asked a series of questions to determine whether they are at risk of contracting the virus, says Giwa-Tubosun.

“You are only selected and invited for testing if you meet the case definition for coronavirus, or if you have the symptoms. NIMR and Lifebank staff select the people who get invited for testing,” she explained.

NCDC staff double-check patients who show up at the center actually have symptoms of the virus, while the test is done by NIMR staff, said Giwa-Tubosun.

“We are leaving the certified government agencies to do the testing while we (Lifebank) assist them with setting up the infrastructure, sorting out the funding, budgeting and procurement,” she said.

In Lagos, 250 people have been tested for free, and in Oyo over 500 people have been tested. Giwa-Tubosun says the goal is to test 2,000 people per center during their operational lifetime

Oxygen supply

Lifebank is also delivering medical oxygen, a critical supply needed in severe cases of coronavirus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hospitalized patients with coronavirus should be given supplemental oxygen therapy as part of early supportive treatment. But Africa currently has a shortage of medical oxygen and ventilators.

Drive through test center in Oyo state
Temie Giwa-Tubosun
Drive through test center in Oyo state

“We have always delivered emergency oxygen through an initiative called Airbank,” said Giwa-Tubosun, “but what we are doing now, thanks to sponsors, is expanding deliveries to bigger oxygen cylinders to supply for Covid-19 patients.”

The company has also created a database containing the number of ventilators, ICU beds and respirators available in private hospitals and health centers in Nigeria; information collated from volunteers and Lifebank employees’ calls to private facilities.

“We are talking to agencies of the government to find out what supplies they have and what they need,” said Giwa-Tubosun. “We want the database to be available so that they (government agencies) can reach out to the private sector and strike out deals with them regarding the equipment they need.”

So far, 768 ventilators, ICU beds, and respirators in Nigeria have been identified.

Airbank oxygen deliveries will be made in vehicles like this for coronavirus patients
Temie Giwa-Tubosun
Airbank oxygen deliveries will be made in vehicles like this for coronavirus patients

Kenya and Ghana expansion

Lifebank is also expanding the database to Kenya, and is looking to do the same in Ghana and Ethiopia .

“We had our team in Kenya call about 500 hospitals,” Giwa-Tubosun said. So far, Lifebank has found 64 ventilators, 6 respirators and 265 ICU beds in 11 cities in the East African country as of April 27.

Lifebank is not making a profit from its work around coronavirus; the reward is in providing solutions that limit the spread of the virus, Giwa-Tubosun said.

“I didn’t have plans to do anything around Covid-19 when it first started, but I read too much about it and started having nightmares about ventilators and the virus,” she said. “The next day I called the team and we got to work.”