EDITORIAL | Somalia’s 80 reported cases of the new coronavirus disease have become a cause for concern, especially among enthusiasts from a rising country.
The concern lies in both the number and the uncertainty they create: As of Tuesday this week, the federal Department of Health had reported 25 cases of COVID-19 for which the disease is formally known. These numbers jumped in a shocking pattern over two days to reach 80 by recording 25 on Wednesday and another 20 on Thursday.
What this means is that surveillance led by the Ministry of Health with the cooperation of local UN agencies could have helped determine the new cases. But it also leaves a gap on whether some more could be hidden in the communities. The fact that Somalia is a highly social community means that people may have been interfering ever since the first case was reported last month.
It therefore calls for a new form of work between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Federal Member States (FMS), in particular on cooperative work that can help halt proliferation.
This week, FGS ordered an indefinite curfew to help slow the spread of the virus in the capital, Mogadishu. The commander of the Somali police force, Secretary General Abdi Hassan Mohamed, pointed out that the curfew will run daily from 1 p.m.
Curfews, bans on public gatherings and other social distancing rules, as well as hand washing, have been introduced in Somalia, as have neighboring countries. The difference is in how the state will cooperate with the regional administrations.
Somalia is obviously a little different than say Kenya or Ethiopia which have been stable most of the time.
In Kenya, for example, The national government has a curfew throughout the territory and is fully responsible for managing COVID-19 statistics. In an administration where health is a vested function, it may have prevented confusion in public confusion by giving the National Ministry of Health the power to issue directives on pandemic mitigation.
It could be unfair to expect Somalia to follow the same route. First, Somalia is still running a temporary constitution, which has neither given the number of federal states nor clarified the roles of FMS and FGS.
This may explain why FGS in Mogadishu issued special directives from regional authorities. In fact, Northwestern Somalia, which claims independence from Somalia (but is still not internationally recognized), at one point was issued its COVID-19 figure. Puntland also issued directives restricting the movement of people in and out of the region.
With certain powers, it is expected that these regions will try to enforce their various defenses. But it is important that the center and the periphery work together against this common enemy.
On Sunday last week, the United Nations Office in Somalia warned against various agreements with the virus. In a joint statement with other partner countries in Somalia, they expressed solidarity with the Somali people.
Any response to COVID-19, the partners said, would require unity, and for conflict and violence to be dispelled. It was urgently necessary to resume dialogue and “constructive cooperation” to mitigate the threat of the virus.
As a matter of consistency, we must say that coronavirus should not suspend or even replace legitimate political differences that exist between the various actors in Somalia. The country is planning an election later this year. But there are questions about whether an election for universal suffrage can be run.
There are concerns that al-Shabaab’s threat is stronger now than before. There is concern about a hungry population, carob invasion, about 1.1 million people being displaced from their homes and five million needing food. Somalia generally needs to rebuild institutions that are crucial to Somalia’s rebirth.
All of these require money, but Somalia is donor dependent. A UN appeal on Somalia’s hunger status indicates that the country is demanding more than 1 billion. $ To provide food, water, health care, protection and livelihoods to 3 million people – among them 1.4 million internally displaced persons. But the humanitarian response plan was issued in January before locusts and now COVID-19 became a real threat.
In late March, Somalia’s Health Minister Fawziya Abikar asked donors to participate in the 2019 National Coronavirus Disease Response and Response Plan (COVID-19). Its main tasks of having test kits, protective equipment for health workers and managing isolation centers required $ 4.2 million, according to a document sent to the media.
Additional contingency plans for the covid-19 match could take the budget as high as $ 7.2 million. The money will be collected from donors according to the plan. These donors were already present after their public statements. But it is not clear if their faucets continue to flow, as some of these countries like Italy are facing a heavier toll from COVID-19.
In Somalia, the social and economic effects of COVID-19 could certainly amplify the effects of al-Shabaab and carob invasion. The recent announcement by Prime Minister Hassan Khaire that Mogadishu is releasing $ 1 million to help FMs fight coronavirus is welcome.
But it’s how leaders react, how they give up personal ambitions for now and come together for a common enemy that can make a difference.