Streets, shops, schools, mosques are all empty, aeroplanes landed, buses parked, and borders closed globally. The social effects of coronavirus are enormous. It is only the cemeteries and hospitals which are the busiest places today. The world is at war with a new spreading disease; COVID-19 and as a result is facing a global economic recession. Somalia is not an exception. This pandemic is an unwelcome guest to this vulnerable state by all standards of living and institutional capacities of the nation. Out of twelve million people, three million need urgent health care services, three million more need humanitarian aid and two million are in stressed food security while one million others already internally displaced in the country. These numbers mean over nine million people in Somalia are sick, hungry or malnourished, and the reason is that the health care system is almost non-existent and poorly resourced.
Somalia had already enough of other non-disease contagious infections such as violence, misinformation, fake news and clannish stereotypes which already took a toll on the overall existence of the country. Coronavirus will only add to the ever-growing problems of the country and further weaken the existing weak institutions of the government. However, the most significant and most effective weapons all governments around the world are employing to fight coronavirus is social behaviour management and lifestyle changes such as isolations, quarantining and stay home campaigns which significantly proved to be effective in countries like China to bring the pandemic under control.
So one could wonder! can’t Somalia even afford to do that? In other words, is Somalia prepared for slightly adjusting its social behaviour to confront this pandemic? To answer this question, let us examine the recent developments in the efforts of the late and insufficient measures instituted by the government and the reactions from the public and other stakeholders.
The Muslim scholars in Somalia were defiant of complying with one of the measures of controlling the virus by closing mosques. A task force comprising of the scholars, health experts and government officials were since assigned to come up with a unified response to corona which never came with alternative measures since 11th April 2020. Other suggestions defied by the public are social distancing and avoidance of public gatherings as cafes and restaurants operate as usual without necessary adjustments. It is also a public knowledge that a lot of myth surrounding this epidemic. For instance, the mythical claim that black people are immune to the virus or faithful Muslims are friendly with the epidemic or that coronavirus is similar to Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) (locally named Kaduduye) which only claims the life of one out of thousand infections. Compare this rate with five percent fatality rate of COVID19. The CHIKV infected almost all of the Somali population for the last fifteen years and has similar symptoms of dengue and zika viruses.
As a result of these unresponsive behaviours, Somalia has the second-highest death rates of coronavirus in east Africa after Kenya with five fatalities with over a hundred active cases as we speak. The global pandemic restrictions have affected the commodity prices in Somalia, halted the incoming and outgoing flights and is likely to claim more lives unless radical social behaviour changes are championed and complied accordingly.
Hassan Abdulle Hassan
Public Service, Volunteerism and innovation enthusiast