This virus does not care if you have already been affected by drought, locust and conflict. It doesn’t care where you live in or if you have access to healthcare. The virus doesn’t care, but we must.
The Somali NGO community takes the threat posed by COVID-19 very seriously and welcomes recent measures announced by Somali officials to limit the spread of infections and to prepare for a possible outbreak.
In Somalia there has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 and official have prepared a comprehensive national contingency plan. In neighboring Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia there are combined 19 confirmed cases.
We know that it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who are most at risk of losing their lives and livelihoods. The people we serve are already impacted by the climate crisis – recurrent and persistent droughts, locust infestation – and conflict. The 2.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups face heightened risks due to inadequate sanitation and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, often crowded living conditions and lack of access to decent healthcare. While the virus does not discriminate, we recognize that it is likely to impact poorer households more negatively and require additional vigilance and tailored responses.
Our priority is to work with the people we serve to protect them and curb the spread of the deadly virus. In partnership with the government and key actors, we are strengthening preventative sanitation and ensuring access to accurate information, while raising awareness among our staff on how to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We need to do everything we can to keep humanitarian staff healthy so they can continue to deliver critical aid. An outbreak of COVID-19 would pose a massive threat to people who are already extremely vulnerable and would also have serious implications for getting basic services to the 5.2 million Somalis in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
National contingency plans must not leave displaced communities or other vulnerable groups behind, especially when it comes to securing the availability and accessibility of services for testing and hospitalization. Despite great efforts by Somali officials, the majority of Somalis do not have access to health care. The NGO community will work closely with Somali officials, donors and UN partners to understand gaps and call for sufficient resources. We recognize that well-managed preparedness and control mechanisms will be key to mitigate the devastating effects of an outbreak. As NGOs, we are taking our responsibility to contribute, seriously.
“We are all in this together and we must reflect and think anew the changing nature of humanitarian work; staying locally relevant, collaborating with others for systems change and never comprising our duty of care to our staff”, said Nasra Ismail, Director of the Somalia NGO Consortium. We must work together, in our communities and across borders, with dignity, resilience, solidarity and compassion. We will continue to support the efforts of Somali officials and to follow applicable guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization and while ensuring that the most vulnerable still have access to essential services and enjoy fundamental protections. We ask our donors, partners and the international community to support us as we do so.
For more information or to arrange interviews contact:
Mobile phone: +254798192535
Amy Croome, Chair of the Advocacy Working Group- Somalia NGO Consortium.
Notes to the Editor:
The Somalia NGO Consortium is a network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working together to improve international aid coordination and raise the presence and profile of NGO representation within the aid coordination structure for Somalia.