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Coro Angels

During the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria I collaborated with the Nigeria Center for Disease Control to document the country's response to the global pandemic, particularly the activities of those on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.

Facing up to this invisible enemy has been an unimaginable struggle for many of the workers, who endure everything from inadequate resources to poor welfare and the social stigmatisation of the COVID-19 frontline workers. Yet they remain unfazed, putting their lives on the line day after day to help Nigeria overcome this global pandemic.

Very early on in the crisis, I myself caught the coronavirus and while I was able to recover at home, I saw first-hand - not just as a photographer, but as a patient - the enormous challenges facing Nigeria's health services. Therefore I am using this series to pay homage to these 'angels' and to shed light on some of the experiences they shared with me.

In the line of duty caring for, and protecting, victims of the virus, these 'Coro Angels' ('Coro' is the colloquial term for coronavirus in Nigeria) have be to kitted out with personal protective equipment, which renders them faceless. As a result, the personal sacrifice of individual workers like nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, and lab technicians is rarely acknowledged.

It was important for me to photograph them before they went 'into battle'. Placing a halo of colour on the walls of the spaces where they performed their duties reflects their sacred role and sacrifice. When wearing their PPE, we can see the effort and discomfort they undergo to wage this war against an invisible enemy.

As Nigeria continues to grapple with an ongoing and even deadlier second wave of the virus, my prayers and sincere gratitude goes out to Nigeria's 'Coro Angels' and I echo their calls for the general public to play their part in controlling this pandemic with social distancing, regular hand washing, the use of face masks and hand sanitiser.

Andrew Esiebo, January 2021
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