By Dr. Seun Adigun, Summer and Winter Olympian
There are few more exhilarating feelings than standing in front of the world, representing your country. Having dedicated my life to the pursuit of new challenges, I have been lucky enough to compete for Nigeria in the 2012 summer and 2018 winter Olympics, becoming the first African to participate in both events. This would not have happened without the support of those around me, and I have never allowed myself to forget my roots.
I am very proud of my Nigerian heritage and passionate about showing the world all the African continent has to offer. The world is currently facing a public health crisis in the form of COVID-19, but in Africa, the stakes are significantly higher. Public health systems have long been burdened by the toll of diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases. A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and funding continues to be a challenge, and now COVID-19 is truly exposing the cracks in the system. As we begin to focus on one disease, there is a very real chance that others are side-lined, which will only harm us more. COVID-19 not only poses an immediate threat to people living in Africa, it also threatens the future health of the continent by weakening its health systems, and Africans’ trust in them, to near-collapse.
This is why I launched the Dr. Seun Cares COVID-19 Relief initiative, to support families across Nigeria facing hardships from COVID-19. The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way many Africans are able to work and earn an income, through no fault of their own, and created additional pressures on communities. The millions once engaged in informal employment are now struggling to make a living. As someone who has represented their country, carried by the incredible support of my fellow citizens, it is an honour to be able to use my platform to help others in return. It would be an even greater honour if I can inspire others to do the same.
I am a firm believer that everyone deserves the opportunity to take control of their futures and their lives. This is particularly important when we consider the coronavirus, which has left millions feeling unsure and helpless. Often when we hear solutions to prevent the spread of this disease, they are not feasible to all communities, or do not consider the reality of peoples’ lives. I have therefore chosen to support the Stay Safe Africa campaign powered by Speak Up Africa, designed specifically for African communities and supporting everyone to protect themselves against the virus. Earlier this month, I also took part in the Zero Malaria “The Bigger Picture” activation, to shed light on the importance of the malaria fight, in this COVID-19 context.
One important element of this is the critical role of exercise to protect ourselves from COVID-19. After all, exercise not only benefits an individual’s mental wellbeing, it can also make a population healthier, improving our immune systems from disease and in turn decreasing the burden on healthcare systems. Exercising not only helps you to stay healthy, but also protects the community around you, and who wouldn’t want to support those they love?
Through sport and through knowledge I have been able to transform my own life, and now I hope to help others do the same. Together we are stronger, and we can make a bigger difference. Whether competing as a professional athlete or supporting Africa’s COVID-19 relief effort, the best successes are achieved when we work as a team. By collectively lending our voices to the fight against COVID-19 and sharing the simple ways we can protect ourselves, we can all strengthen Africa’s response to beat the deadly coronavirus.
This article was originally published by New African Woman on October 5, 2020.
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