EDITORIAL | Da Dr. Fawziya Abikar Nor, the Somali health minister, announced on Monday in Mogadishu that a case of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) had been confirmed in the country, it may have only ended an anxious wait.
But this announcement could now create new anxiety: Somalia, which has been on a positive trajectory recently on most fronts, is being forced to take a break.
This week, for example, Somali Minister of Air Transport and Airports Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar imposed a 15-day ban on international flights, excluding only humanitarian and medical emergency aircraft for landing or take-off from Somali territory.
There were several measures. Somalia, like the rest of Africa, restricted public gatherings, closed schools and encouraged people to wash their hands.
On Thursday morning, Dr. Nor that there had been no further transmission of the virus. There was also no new imported case, she said.
Mamunur Rahman Malik, the World Health Organization’s national representative in Somalia, urged people to practice preventative measures rather than live in anxiety.
“Let’s fight this virus by spreading these messages,” he said, referring to the simple steps of washing hands and following advice from public health authorities.
“The world has fought and won a bigger health crisis than Covid-19. We need to prepare and not panic. ”
For Somalia, if it continues like this without further transmission, the country could possibly reopen for normal business in two weeks. If it does not, observers say Somalis must prepare to take two steps back and start again.
Somalia, continental standards so far have been lucky and reported only one case when neighbors Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania announced more. WHO says Africa now has 600 cases. This means that the number for sub-Saharan Africa is almost half.
with South Africa in the lead at 150 before Thursday night.
But it is the weakest economy among them all, given its decades-long uncertainty challenges.
A World Bank bulletin says about eight million Somalis or half of the entire population live in poverty. The country’s economic activities are mostly driven by agriculture and services. The former, the bank says, has not recovered since the drought in 2017.
“The agricultural sector experienced almost total collapse with crop failures, a widespread shortage of water and grassland; and increased domestic mortality. Inflationary pressures increased in 2017 due to drought driven by significant increases in crop prices, ”says the bank in the bulletin.
The latter, which mostly requires contacts between people, is likely to strike a hit after Somali Prime Minister Hassan Khaire announced tougher measures on Tuesday, including a ban on public meetings.
But the bigger economic challenge will come this way: Most of the Covid-19 cases in Africa are mostly imported from Europe, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. China, where the virus started in December, has strangely been subject to stricter quarantines, limiting the virus’ exports to Africa.
But in Somalia, the country also employs many expatriates who serve the UN, the African Union mission in Somalia, as well as foreign diplomats and expert entrepreneurs.
“These staff often travel in and out of the country with major public health risks that are difficult to minimize,” said Dr. Hodan Ali, a Nurse for the Family Nurse and Benadir Regional Administration Humanitarian and Durable Solutions Coordinator in Somalia.
When the alien’s journey is limited to containing the virus, it creates a new problem: their activities stop. Most Somalis are dependent on selling services to this community or even working for them. With the new virus, that means the business cannot continue.
A study published last week by the World Economic Forum but conducted by pollster Ipsos shows that people in countries with reported cases were eager to lose their jobs.
The report was based on the 12 countries that originally registered cases, but with an interconnected block today, the effects could be cooling. In fact, the United Nations Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD) said this week that the world will lose $ 1 trillion to the virus, with poorer nations feeling more squeezed.
“Simply put, this is a case of the larger nations sneezing and the poor getting colds,” noted David Ayacko, an economist in Nairobi.
“Poorer nations depend on the richer ones for stability. Every shock hits hard, and our region in East Africa cannot be spared either. ”
In a blog in ‘Somali Public Agenda’ this week, Dr. argued Ali argued that Somalia’s dilapidated health facilities, which are already unable to cope with existing problems, could make matters worse if the virus spread.
This week, Mr. Khaire an emergency package of $ 5 million to help contain the virus. That’s about 5 percent of what donors gave Somalia last year ($ 101 million) to development programs.
The disruption means Somalia must divert funds earmarked for development to address an emergency.
“The social, political and economic impact of Covid-19 globally is enormous, as we are witnessing. The economic consequences must be reduced by encouraging stronger public and private partnerships to tackle immediate and long-term economic downturns, ”she argued.
On Thursday, Somalia had asked donors to help chip in, and a meeting with partners on Wednesday had promised to help support the health facilities.
Abdirashid Hashi, director of the Heritage Institute, a think tank in Mogadishu, summed up Somalia’s problems on Thursday as security, humanitarian, political and diplomatic. For the latter two, he argued for the problem as in the uncertainty of having a government whose mandate was to end. For diplomacy, “the world has other priorities.”
In the wake of the coronavirus, Hashi suggested that there is a possibility that the disease affects all aspects of life, including politics. But can the players take into account?
“Because of the chaos [the] Coronavirus pandemic can cause in Somalia if spread in mid-war; and due to the absence of health infrastructure, I would suggest that you enter into a one-year ceasefire with the Somali government, even though I prefer to end the war altogether, ”he wrote in an open proposal to al-Shabaab.
Authorities in Somalia and the region have often said they could not negotiate, so it is unclear how or if al-Shabaab can respond to the call.
But Somalia plans to hold elections this year. But there have been certain problems, it was necessary to fix first. It passed the Electoral Code and was to begin registering voters and adopting a new constitution. The ban on public gatherings means that conferences with political awareness must be slowed down and Parliament cannot sit.
The virus arrived in Somalia when the UN launched a public outreach campaign on the constitutional review process of Dusamareb, the state of Galmudug. Whether more could be held is another matter given the panic among people now.
For the federal government in Somalia, the virus may arrive at a crucial moment: it was necessary to reach out to federal states to eliminate differences. This week, Puntland’s President Said Abdullahi Deni announced that he might soon visit Mogadishu and signal the rapprochement between his state and President Mohamed Farmajo’s administration.
Nevertheless, the current visit can now be kept on hold until after the virus has been declared completely clear by the World Health Organization.
Some analysts told Axadlethat Farmaajo, in the face of opposition from federal states, had wanted the election delayed. With Coronavirus, it can offer a legitimate channel for this route.
Article 53, paragraph 2b, states that the election may be postponed if there is an epidemic. Of course, it’s Coronavirus. So Farmajo can postpone the election without any hindrance, ”argued Abdalla Ibrahim of the East African Center for Research and Strategic Studies in Nairobi, referring to the new election law.
“Farmajo had better use of this opportunity than looking for another way that is not legitimate,” he added.
In addition to war and natural disaster, an epidemic could prevent people from living normally, which means they cannot be free to vote. But Somalia cannot yet invoke this clause.
Despite the fact that coronavirus has been declared a pandemic, the actual words of Somali law refer to an outbreak. The country is not yet able to meet the definition, as only one case has been confirmed.