The impact of COVID-19 in Somalia, by Farah Isse Mumin

Farah Isse Mumin

Since the first case of COVID19 in Somalia on March 16, 2020, cases have rapidly spread to all federal member states. The government has limited resources, with only three molecular laboratories nationwide that can test samples and only one single hospital (Martini hospital in Mogadishu) that is devoted to treating severely ill COVID-19 patients (it has only a dozen ICU beds).

Following on from almost two decades of unrest and environmental disasters, including frequent droughts and recent desert locust infestations that resulted in the displacement of 2.6 million people that negatively affected livelihoods of millions of others, the country’s health system is fragile and ill equipped. A lot therefore rests on Somalia’s young population (who make up almost 70% of the country’s overall population) and their ability to practice public health preventive measures (using water and soap) and social distancing – if they do not, the country may experience the worst of this epidemic.

The higher education sector where I am working was very much affected right from the beginning of the COVID crisis. However, thanks to the affordable internet price of the country (cheapest in Africa and 7th in the World according to Worldwide mobile data pricing by Cable UK* where you can buy 1GB by $0.5 or less), we were able to conclude the academic year of Red Sea University through online classes and exams.

As a One Health Sandpit Fellow of the HORN project, I was planning to commence the data collection phase of an anthrax surveillance project alongside other researchers in Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea in early February 2020; COVID19 paused the activity and our resumption date is uncertain, although we plan to kick off the Somalia side soon if the situation allows. Since the infection affected nearly every single country/territory and community in one way or another, solidarity and a multidisciplinary one health approach of studying this pandemic is essential.

Medical personnel attend to a patient in Martini Hospital, the country’s only medical facility dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia. The number of those infected with coronavirus continues to soar in the Horn of Africa nation with most cases being recorded in Mogadishu. (Xinhua/Hassan Bashi)

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