Somalilandsun -On 16th March, 2020, Somalia recorded its first case of coronavirus. Somalia comes top of the INFORM Global Risk Index with a vulnerability score of 8.9 out of 10. This makes it the country with the weakest capacity to cope with the added stress of a pandemic such as COVID-19 in the world- With a health system already at breaking point, if no urgent attention is given to this looming crisis, Somalia will likely suffer the effects of the pandemic more severely than many other countries. More than 2.4 million people already requiring lifesaving essential healthcare and nutrition services are facing an uncertain future if the spread of the pandemic is not stopped in its early stages.
Although the country has taken precautions to curb the spread of the virus such as banning of flights and closure of schools, the number of cases has been rising by each day, this includes cases with no travel history, thereby signifying community transmission. Among those most at risk are the more than 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) faced with water scarcity, poor hygiene and lack of access to quality and affordable medical service.
The closure of schools has left more than 1.3 million children with no access to education, eroding the gains that have been made over the years to ensure Somali children receive education without interruption. This is in addition to the 3 million school-aged children who are not enrolled in schools in Somalia. The school closures have also negatively affected girls through reinforcing social norms and practices of gender inequality, the girls now shoulder the burden of taking care of the households.
Despite the challenges posed by school closures CARE will continue to support the Somali education system directly and through partners. This will be by using technology and innovative solutions to provide pre-recorded academic lessons and messages on COVID- 19 prevention through radio and television programming and potentially online platforms, as well as distribution of low cost laptops to the most vulnerable children.
COVID-19 is also likely to have an even worse and longer lasting economic impact on the country which is still recovering from decades of civil war. Not only is the country’s own economy affected by travel bans and lock downs, but it is estimated that Somalia receives approximately USD$1.6 billion per year in remittances from countries around the world that are also facing lock downs that affect those working in informal labour disproportionately.
CARE SOMALIA/SOMALILAND COUNTRY DIRECTOR, IMAN ABDULLAHI SAYS:
“We are faced with one of the greatest emergency challenges for Somalia and Somaliland. As an organization we have identified women and girls to be the most affected if the virus spreads in the country, children will also be greatly affected by the closure of schools. Before the pandemic, Somalia and Somaliland already had more than 2 million girls who were out of school and further interruptions to the school calendar will have a huge negative impact on the future of education.
Our teams on the ground have met children who are afraid if they will ever go back to school again or enjoy their childhood with friends and relatives.
We have already started adapting our programs to respond to the threat of an outbreak in the country. CARE is on the ground raising awareness on the virus amongst communities through our partners. But our efforts will be in vain if we don’t receive funding urgently, currently the Country Preparedness and Response Plan requires US$57.8 million to scale up preparedness, readiness and response over the next nine months.”
CARE is currently embarking on a massive awareness campaign through different channels in Somalia focusing on prevention and recognizing symptoms of the virus. The COVID-19 virus has followed the locust plague which has left Somalia reeling; a second wave of locusts is also currently threatening countries in East Africa.
CARE aims to reach at least 15% of the estimated 15 million Somali population with awareness raising and communication, bulk SMS messaging, radio and TV talk shows, provision of supplies including non-food items for hygiene and sanitation and installation of handwashing facilities in Mogadishu and Hargeisa which have already reported cases.
CARE calls upon all stakeholders and the global community to support the Somalia COVID-19 response and save thousands of lives. Strengthened coordination and more funding is also needed to support a country that is still recovering from climatic shocks which have left thousands with vulnerable immune systems.