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WHO supports accelerated response efforts for contact tracing in Somalia as cases surge in Somalia
Somali News

WHO supports accelerated response efforts for contact tracing in Somalia as cases surge in Somalia

As laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 surge in Somalia, the country has also intensified its operations response to contain the epidemic. The WHO country office in support of this intensified response operations has deployed over 4000 community health care workers, each having to visit at least 5000 households every month for active case identification and contact tracing throughout the country. These community health care workers are being supervised by an additional 44 rapid response teams, formed at the district level. Once the community health care workers identify a suspected case through their house-to-house visits, information on the location of the suspected cases are automatically relayed to the rapid response team of the respective districts using open data kit – an open source software for collecting, managing and using data in resource-constrained environments. This data kit has been used in Somalia in the past for polio and cholera surveillance using mobile devices. The submission of the data to a server can be performed when internet connectivity is available. The rapid response teams, in turn, swiftly investigate the case and take appropriate action for testing, isolation and quarantine, as needed. These community health care workers and members of the team were trained by WHO staff before deployment. The training included how to wash hands using soap and water, how to look for suspected cases and how to conduct contact tracing systematically. Despite various restrictions and lockdown, the operation has continued in all parts of the country owing to the commitment and dedication of national staff of the WHO country office who have been working hand in hand with the state and local authorities since the beginning of the epidemic. Commenting on this massive operations, Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative in Somalia, remarked, “We can only end this pandemic if we can end it in settings like Somalia, where our operational challenges in conducting house-to house case searching and contact tracing in remote, in accessible and security-compromised areas are a huge undertaking. We will continue to support this operation in the field until we see the end of this outbreak here in this country”. Up until 11 May 2020, the country has reported 1054 cases, including 51 deaths, and recently there has been an upsurge in cases and deaths. Owing to the geographic vastness of the country and difficulty in accessing remote areas where travel by air was the usual means of reaching the population living in those areas, it has been extremely difficult to access these areas with humanitarian support during this long period of restriction and lockdown. The WHO country office continues to overcome these barriers by ensuring physical presence of contact tracers and other categories of health care workers on the ground who are the essential components of any surveillance and response system of a country for containing this unprecedented epidemic. [13:06, 5/12/2020] Daniel: Somalia: Thousands fleeing due to floods and conflict, UNHCR The UNHCR has warned that conflict and serious flooding have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes amid risks of COVID-19 in Somalia. Heavy flooding, conflict, a crippled economy, impending desert locust swarms and the exponential spread of COVID-19 are threatening the safety and welfare of Somalia's 2.6 million internally displaced people. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, fears these multiple, compounding emergencies will lead to devastating consequences unless there is a strong and coordinated response from the international community, national and local Somali authorities and humanitarian actors to meet the massive humanitarian needs, it said in a May 8 statement. Hundreds of thousands of IDPs The organization said in the statement that since ''the start of this year, more than 220,000 Somalis have become internally displaced, including 137,000 due to conflict. Natural and climate-related disasters including drought and resulting lack of livelihoods and floods are additional complex and interlinked drivers of displacement.'' ''In South and Central Somalia, flash floods and the beginnings of riverine flooding caused by the seasonal Gurains have already displaced an estimated 90,000 with additional displacement expected, worsening significant pre-existing humanitarian needs faced by IDPs and host communities. "If current trends continue, this year's rains give every indication that they could pose the same catastrophic threat as the Deyr rains of 2019, which led to more than 400,000 people being forced to flee their homes. "Swarms of desert locusts, the most destructive migratory insect in the world, threaten to decimate crop yields and cause widespread food shortages post the Gu rains,'' it noted. The statement added that in ''March and April, armed operations against Al Shabab resumed in Lower Shabelle, resulting in more than 50,000 people being forced to flee their homes. "Communities were directly exposed to crossfire and mortar attacks in their villages, and roadside explosions while in flight. Recruitment of children, gender-based violence including rape, and arbitrary arrest where also reported.'' COVID-19 risks ''UNHCR believes the humanitarian situation will worsen as COVID-19 further spreads. Most of the 2.6 million IDPs in Somalia live in overcrowded settlements and many, especially those newly displaced, live in makeshift shelters made of plastic bags, cardboards and sticks. Physical and social distancing is close to impossible, and there is scarcely enough clean water for drinking, let alone hand-washing. Conditions are ripe for widespread viral transmission,'' the statement added. UNHCR urges the international community to come forward with further funding for humanitarian agencies and the Government of Somalia in this time of crisis, it said.