ADDIS ABABA – Somalia is at a critical juncture where immediate action can still curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today.
ICRC officials have expressed their deep concern about the impact that the virus could have on communities weakened by violence and conflict, where displacement, malnutrition, and outbreaks of disease are already widespread.
“Somalia is at a crossroads, where we can rapidly scale up to get information and resources out to communities and health care facilities against COVID-19, or move too slowly and never catch up,” said Juerg Eglin, ICRC’s head of delegation for Somalia. “Speed is critical, and we are working with our colleagues at the Somali Red Crescent to fight COVID-19 from fully taking hold.”
The Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) and ICRC are racing to reach 120,000 households with information on how COVID-19 can be prevented and soap and chlorine tablets. Some 8,000 families were reached this week in Baardheere. In other parts of Somalia, 260 COVID-19 information sessions were organized this week around SRCS clinics, reaching 2,600 people.
“If we have a surge in cases, the health system will not be able to cope,” said Ana Maria Guzman, health coordinator for the ICRC in Somalia. “Accurate information has to be on the forefront of the response, so people can take steps to protect themselves and their families.”
Nearly 500 health workers and SRCS volunteers have been trained in COVID-19 prevention and symptoms. The ICRC is distributing gloves, bleach, and other equipment to hospitals and clinics across the country.
To ensure no one is left behind in the race to stop COVID-19 in Somalia, the ICRC has also provided six-months’ worth of soap for all detainees and staff to places of detention in Mogadishu and Kismayo.
This effort will continue, in addition to helping set up infection prevention control measures and sharing information on COVID-19 with inmates and staff, in more than 20 places of detention across the country.
“We must do everything we can to prevent the virus from entering a prison,” said Guzman. “Physical distancing is nearly impossible and an outbreak of COVID-19 in a jail would be devastating for both inmates and staff.”
While COVID-19 poses an invisible threat to Somalia, conflict has not stopped, and still drives displacement and suffering.
The ICRC is also working to ensure that its life-saving work does not stop due to COVID-19 but can continue safely for both its staff and the people they serve.
“Violence continues. Climate shocks continue. We will have to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in Somalia, with the additional threat that COVID-19 brings,” said Eglin.