Somaliland: Corona Virus Becomes a Reality as State Traces Hundreds in Contact with Two Confirmed Cases

R-L Journalists Ahmed Suleiman and Mahmud Walleye and a friend captured here practising Covid 19 Social distancing at Yarus ethio teashop in Hargeisa Somaliland

Somalilandsun: The Somaliland state machinery is tracing hundreds of people in Berbera and Burao towns who came into contact with the Corona virus infected confirmed two people in each of the town.

This was revealed by the health minister Omar Ali Abdilahi ‘Badde’ during This was revealed by the health minister Omar Ali Abdilahi ‘Badde’ during a press briefing held by the national Corona virus Prophylactic Committee led by the vice president Abdilahi Sayli in Hargeisa.

“I hereby report that we have confirmed the first two cases of Corona virus infection in the country” said minister Badde adding that one case is in the port city of Berbera while the second is in the Toghdeer regional capital Burao.

Both the two cases are imported since the Burao case is of a Briton of Somaliland origin who arrived in the country prior to flights suspension while the one in Berbera is of a Chinese national whose period of stay in Somaliland is yet to be revealed.

“ Having confirmed the two Covid-19 cases which are the first in this country we are now tracing all the people in both Berbera and Burao who came into contact with the two for purposes of isolation and subsequent testing.

The Somaliland National Coronavirus Propalyctic Committee revealed the two confirmed infection cases

The news of the two cases came amid disturbing reports from the Somaliland-Djiboutian border town of Lowya Ado where four persons sneaking into Djibouti are being held after displaying mild symptoms of the virus.

The Four people who violated flights ban restrictions into Djibouti and instead sneaked in by road through Somaliland have tested positive for COVID-19 adding to 18 the number of identified cases in the country.

The four people were initially travelling to Djibouti by air but they changed plans and chose to travel by road to enter the country following the coming into effect of flights ban.


The Djiboutian director general of health Dr. Salah Benoyta confirmed the four cases noting they will be sent to Arte medical centre for isolation and treatment.

The discovery of the four cases raises concerns that they may have come into contact and subsequently infected people in Somaliland during their stay there. There were no immediate reports on tracing and quarantine of the possible contacts in Somaliland.

In the meantime Somalilanders are after some initial doubts and resistance implementing Covid-19 preventive guidelines put in place by the inter-ministerial national prophylactic task force especially social distancing which is slowly becoming the norm.

While Somalis are traditional close contact oriented social especially in mosques, teashops, home or in khat chewing marfrashes social distancing is being observed by many.

What is yet to become the norm is use of Corona virus personal protective gears like face masks and gloves

Khat is main source of government revenue as well as major employer in Somaliland where the herb is covertly an essential commodity

With religious and educational institutions having adapted fully the anti infection preventive guidelines of total schools closure and minimizing prayers period, closing ablution and toilet facilities in mosques what is yet to be implemented is closure of khat chewing marfrashes.

Very popular with Khat chewers the Marfrashes are still operating as usual with revellers sitting very close to each other, sharing cigarettes and tea/ water glasses.

Operators of a couple of marfrashes visited by in Hargeisa say that the government through the national prophylactic committee is not serious about closure of these places, WHY?

Chewing khat in marfrash. Is the norm in Somaliland

Their justification is simple “To completely shut down these places the government need only ban Khat imports from Ethiopia” said Ms Asha Ibrahim who runs a marfrash in the Toghdeer area of Hargeisa.

The mother of four who is the sole family breadwinner says while the bussines is her family’s lifeline she will willing shut down operations in respect of the guidelines.

“But if I close my shop my regular clients will surely transfer to another one thence the only remedy is for the ban of khat imports from Ethiopia because the ones from Kenya no longer available in Somaliland since after flight suspension” says Ms Asha

Khat a herbal stimulant imported from Ethiopia and Kenya is very popular in Somaliland where an estimated 65% of citizens are chewers not to mention that it is also that it’s taxation contributes the main source of government revenue. It is also a major employer in the country where jobs are hard to come by.

Somaliland and Ethiopian officials at meeting in Wajale

Just to get a measure of the difficulty of banning Khat imports is the fact that the government’s of Somaliland and Ethiopia recently closed their borders.

This closure occasioned by Corona virus mainly targets cross border movement of people while exempting Goods termed essential like foodstuffs, medicines and machinery etc.

Khat was never mentioned either as a banned item even though Covid-19 cases have been reported in the Oromiya Khat growing areas of Ethiopia, nor was the stimulant herb mentioned during a meeting between Ethiopian and Somaliland officials held Wajale border town recently thence millions of dollars on a daily basis of Khat imports continue to arrive in Somaliland with nobody blinking an eye.

So as long as Khat is covertly an essential commodity in Somaliland the chewing places will stay open too Corona virus or not.