Somalia on hand for occasional management of COVID-19 pandemic
MOGADISHU, Somalia – The government of Somalia has once again been blamed for taking the COVID-19 pandemic “casually” even as the world struggles to contain the spread and rate of infections, in addition to seeking long-term cures such than vaccines.
According to AFP, as other countries rush to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, Somalia remains the rare place where much of the population has not taken the coronavirus seriously. Some fear it will be more deadly than anyone knows.
With part of the country still held by the extremist al-Shabab group linked to al-Qaida, it is places like Somalia that will be the last to receive COVID-19 vaccines in significant quantities.
Less than 27,000 tests for the virus have been carried out in Somalia, a country of more than 15 million people, one of the lowest rates in the world. Less than 4,800 cases have been confirmed, including at least 130 deaths.
For example, according to AFP, Hassan Mohamed Yusuf, a 45-year-old street beggar, this fear has turned into virtual certainty.
“At first we saw this virus as another form of the flu,” he said.
Then three of her young children died after coughing and having a high fever. As residents of a makeshift camp for people displaced by conflict or drought, they did not have access to coronavirus testing and proper care.
At the same time, Yusuf said, the virus has hampered his efforts to find money to treat his family as “we can’t be close enough” to people to beg.
At the start of the pandemic, the Somali government attempted to take action to limit the spread of the virus, closing all schools and shutting down all domestic and international flights. Cell phones were ringing with messages about the virus.
But social distancing has long vanished from the streets, markets or restaurants of the country.
Some 30,000 people crowded into a stadium in Mogadishu on Thursday for a regional football match without face masks or other anti-virus measures.
Mosques in the Muslim nation have never faced restrictions, for fear of backlash.
A more important protective factor is the relative youth of the Somali people, said Dr Abdurahman Abdullahi Abdi Bilaal, who works in a clinic in the capital. Over 80% of the country’s population is under 30 years old.
“The virus is there, absolutely, but people’s resilience is due to age,” he said.
It is the lack of post-mortem investigations in the country that allows the true extent of the virus to go undetected, he said. The next challenge in Somalia is not just to get the COVID-19 vaccines, but also to persuade the population to accept them.