The Horn of Africa country has so far confirmed 601 cases and 28 deaths of the infection caused by the novel coronavirus known COVID-19. This makes the total number of cases in Somalia, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 601. The total reflects all people living in Somalia who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases, as well as death and patients who have since recovered from the consequences of the virus. 90 percent of the infected people live in Mogadishu.
After Somalia confirmed its first coronavirus case on 16 March shuts schools and universities to prevent the spread of the pandemic in the conflict-hit country. However, with the rapidly escalating Covid-19 pandemic, governments all over the world have been arguing that, banning and suspending schools is not enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.Other measures of social distancing such as staying home and self-quarantine are meant to curb the spread of the pandemic. Despitethe repeated pleas of health officials and the restrictions on movement put in place, many people of all ages are defying the social distancing guidelines. The question then is, whyis this happening and why are people refusing to stay at home to limit contact with others? As a Somali who studied in Somalia, I believe, this is the result of our educational system and the curriculum of the country which has failed to produce a society with a sense of ethics, social responsibility and common sense. Other factors contributing people not to follow social guidelines may include, religious misunderstanding, cultural practices, many think it’s not their problems and others think they are invulnerable to the virus.
Muslim clerics in otherparts of the world are on the front line in the fight against the novel coronavirus. However, in Somalia, Muslim clerics (Religious leaders) argue that “Covid-19 is a punishment from GOD (Allah) to China for its maltreatment of the Uighur Muslim community” and that this virus will not affect Muslims in Somalia and around the world. The religious leaders warned the government of Somalia notto close mosques and recently demonstrated against plans from the government to close mosques and Madrasah Schools. The message from the religious groups is to ignore the official health authority guidelines.
Preliminary reports from countries affected by the coronavirus show that young people appear unlikely to develop serious symptoms but can still carry the virus and pass it on to older people who are more vulnerable to the virus. However, young people across Somalia continue to meet in groups in restaurants, play football games and are defying the stay-at-home policy and social distancing guidelines. This means young people are not really making any sacrifice to stop the spread of the pandemic. The lack of services from the government in areas such as health, education, water and social security has created an anti-government rhetoric and engendered among the people a deep mistrust in state institutions. The people do not have much confidence in government institutions.Finally, local cultural practices are also part of the factorscausing people not to stay at home. In Somalian culture, it is important to socialize, support and visit each other, especially when someone is ill. This practice influences the peopleand leads to their refusal to stay at home.It is thus hard for people to understand the severity of the situation and maintain social distancing guidelines.
What is needed in Somalia
Since coronavirus brought many problems to millions of people around the world. Refugee camps and people living in conflict hit- countries are more likely to experience the hardest by the novel coronavirus. The semi-curfews and other restriction on movements in Somalia are noteffectively working. The effects of the restrictions may cause more suffering than the virus. Therefore, in order to reduce and stop the spread of the virus the federal health and federal member states need to respond what is acceptable locally, what local people can simply follow.
What is needed? people needs support as many part of the country soap and water are not available especiallythose living in refugee camps, many others don’t have any idea what the virus is about, the symptoms, how it spreads and how to prevent. Therefore, local institutions need to provide water, soup, hand sanitizers. Also, a campaign raising awareness on the coronavirus disease should be broadcasted in Somalia language to the public. Additionally, more testing kits need to be in place, more basic materials for hygiene also need to be provided to most of people who are vulnerable, especially poor people and people living in refugee camps, and protective equipment need to be provided for the health workers across the country.
Finally, having an efficient national communication strategy is very important. This means the public knows where they can get the daily updates from the government on how to prevent the virus and the current status of COVID-19 in the country. It’s also very important that Media-Outlets to follow the government guidelines against the virus and must avoid any fake news or misinformation. Fake news can be as dangerous as the virus and can put many lives at risk.
Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, Ankara, Turkey