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COVID19 could have done more damage in Somalia than reported- IRC
Africa

COVID19 could have done more damage in Somalia than reported- IRC

The International Rescue Committee has warned that many cases are going untested and undetected. Somalia has faced decades of violence and cycles of drought and floods, leaving its health care system ill-equipped to respond to this outbreak. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been preparing for the spread of coronavirus by training health care staff to screen patients for symptoms and safely isolate potential cases.

Richard Crothers, Somalia Country Director at the IRC, said “The IRC is extremely concerned that Somalia is becoming quickly overwhelmed by a major uptick in COVID-19 cases. The situation is on the verge of spiralling out of control. We are seeing widespread community transmission in a country that will not be able to handle a multitude of severely ill patients at once. IRC staff are reporting that people with symptoms are being told to stay home to save the limited health resources for those who become severely ill, showing that the official count is far off from reality.

“To say that the people of Somalia have already suffered enough would be an understatement. This past year alone, the country has seen a severe drought, followed by massive flooding, and is facing the largest locust invasion in a quarter-century, and now a devastating coronavirus pandemic. Years of violence and cycles of drought and flooding have left more than five million people in need of humanitarian aid and forced many to flee their homes. Those in displaced persons camps around Mogadishu are living in cramped conditions without access to proper water, sanitation and hygiene services, leaving them extremely vulnerable to the disease and unable to protect themselves.

“All this points to another potentially desperate situation. Massive food insecurity, poor nutrition and a struggling economy means that many in this population will have underlying health problems, and we might see a higher case fatality ratio as compared to the developed world. But we still have time to intervene and scale up our response. With an injection of funding and support, we can save lives. There are many trained, dedicated health staff who will work around the clock and need our support to keep going.

“The IRC is working with local authorities to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene services in all our programming sites, identifying isolation areas at our health clinics, and ensuring our clients have the right information to protect themselves from the disease. Now, we need support from the international community to scale up this work and stop the spread of the disease.”