The arrival of an unseen adversary, the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, stunned the world by the end of 2019. It’s a serious respiratory infection that can lead to death, particularly in the elderly and those with comorbidities. The virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China when a cluster of cases was discovered, and it has since spread to every corner of the globe.
The pandemic is still going on, and many countries are now experiencing second waves of transmission that are more intense. Fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and loss of taste and smell are some symptoms.
Why is the COVID-19 condition in Somalia such a catastrophe?
The first case of COVID-19 in Somalia was confirmed on 16 March 2020.
Schools and flights were suspended but public gatherings such as wedding ceremonies, religious festivals and nightlife activities continued. Surprisingly for unknown reasons the spread of the virus and mortality in Somalia was not very concerning compared to the neighbouring countries and the world at large. But a second wave neglected.
By the beginning of this year, the virus hit back stronger in a critical time because there is an already complex humanitarian crisis such as drought and locust invasion n several Parts of the country. A combination of those calamities is now plunging the country into an abyss of despair.
In Somalia, death has been nearly normalized and punctuated lives. It happens left and right, for reasons and unknown reasons – with no respite. And even in its most shocking indiscriminate, it takes away the good among us. Despite all that, coronavirus created an unprecedented scenario. Families witness the death of their beloved ones gasping for air without any help, not even from the government. As we know COVID-19 kills mostly aged people and those who are immune-compromised, sometimes young infected people visit their old parents and transmit the virus and a few days later the parent succumbs to the virus. This makes the young ones feel guilty, regret and It’s hard to contain the virus because Families are extended that completely depend on one household. This will halt the social distancing rules.
The impacted factors and eased to spread among the Somali community are culture, lack of community awareness, poverty and general negligence. It’s a Somali culture to visit the sick and the majority maintains this even if the sick is a COVID-19 patient. The same things happen during funerals
A lot has been said to the population but it was too little too late. The awareness started while the virus already gained momentum, and some people say ‘’ poverty is the root cause of all evil ‘’. More than half of the population is not able to buy face masks; soap and hand Sanitizer so on and so forth. Another thing including the negligence and societies’ stubbornness took part in the spread of the coronavirus, the virus spread during public transport, visiting hours and mosque duties.
How to combat the virus
When the virus seems to be uncontrollable, there are two options to combat the virus but unfortunately, both options don’t seem to be appropriate approaches in Somalia
1. Lockdown: this helps to flatten the curve. When the movement of people is restricted, the number of people getting sick slows down and hospitals will get the space and enough capacity to admit those who get sick. Unfortunately, this cannot work because the majority of people in Somalia are daily breadwinners who survive on daily basis. Here comes the dilemma of the fight against COVID-19 VS the fight against hunger.
2. Herd immunity: this means that the majority of the population will become immune to the virus either through getting a vaccination or through immunity developed during a previous infection. And similarly, this will not work either simply because when we expect numerous of the population to get infected, we must have the capacity to handle those who will get sick. After all, they will be in large numbers and sadly only one hospital is currently available to admit COVID-19 patients. This shows that we must come with a clear plan and appropriate approach to fighting COVID-19.
Brief examples of how COVID-19 affected the economy
Covid-19 affected the economy through interruption of remittances, suspension of schools, imports and exports. Flights were banned in 2020 and the same is likely to happen in 2021. Pilgrimage duties weren’t performed last year, and it had a severe impact on the economy for the first time in several decades.
If the crisis continues for a long time and travel is restricted, both sides of the supply and demand equation will be suppressed. Since only one hospital is fighting COVID-19, some people opt to buy their own oxygen and ventilators. A cost that comes along with Covid-19. Schools are currently suspended. If it becomes hard to contain the virus and schools remain suspended;
Teachers, school bus drivers, principals and all school workers will not get a salary and the consequences will be suffered by their families who dearly depend on them
The virus and the vaccine
The COVID 19 vaccine is currently available in most parts of the world and recently reached Somalia. Vaccination is usually controversial in Somalia, some especially
Laypeople generally don’t trust vaccines because of conspiracy theories and lack of information. The Covid-19 vaccine is more controversial because even some doctors and other educated ones believe the vaccine was created in a short time and didn’t pass through reliable clinical trials and shouldn’t be taken at all. The temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine by some European countries created further doubt and significantly increased the number of people who question the reliability of the vaccine
The solutions to the above challenges are; 1) Government institutions to double their efforts to fight against the virus. 2) To Impose a partial curfew. 3) To appoint a robust response team. 4) To request help from the international institutions if the situation gets more worse and lastly Enforce social distancing and wearing of masks in public places.
Dr. Abdifatah Dahie