Mogadishu, Somalia (AP) – As rich countries race to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, Somalia remains the rare place where not many residents have taken the coronavirus seriously. Some fear that it may be more deadly than anyone knows.
“Our people definitely do not use any form of preventive measures, neither masks nor social distancing,” Abdul Razzaq Youssef Haraba, director of COVID-19 incidents in the government, said in an interview. “If you are moving around the city (in Mogadishu) or across the country, no one will talk about it.” However, he said, injuries were increasing.
Places like Somalia, a country in the Horn of Africa torn apart by three decades of conflict, will be the last time they saw COVID-19 vaccines of any significant amount. With Al-Qaeda-linked extremist group Al Shabaab still controlling part of the country, the risk of the virus becoming an endemic in some hard-to-reach areas is strong – fear for parts of Africa amid the slow arrival of vaccines.
“There is no real or practical investigation into this matter,” said Hayrabeh, who is also the director of Martini Hospital in Mogadishu, the largest hospital treating Covid-19 patients, which saw seven new patients on the day he spoke. He acknowledged that there are not enough facilities or equipment in Somalia to confront the virus.
Fewer than 27,000 virus tests have been conducted in Somalia, a country of more than 15 million people, one of the lowest rates in the world. Fewer than 4,800 cases have been confirmed, including at least 130 deaths.
Some worry that the virus will drown in the population as another poorly diagnosed but deadly fever.
For the 45-year-old beggar, Hassan Muhammad Yusuf, this fear has turned into near certainty. “In the beginning we saw this virus as just another form of influenza,” he said.
Then three of his children died after suffering from a cough and high fever. As residents of a makeshift camp for people displaced by conflict or drought, they did not have access to coronavirus testing or appropriate care.
At the same time, Youssef said, the virus has hurt his efforts to find money to treat his family because we “cannot get close enough” to people to beg.
Early in the pandemic, the Somali government tried some measures to limit the spread of the virus, shutting down all schools and shutting down all domestic and international flights. Cell phones rang with messages about the virus.
But social distancing has long since disappeared in the country’s streets, markets or restaurants. On Thursday, nearly 30,000 people gathered at a stadium in Mogadishu for a regional soccer match with no face masks or other virus-fighting measures on the horizon.
Mosques in the Muslim community did not face restrictions for fear of backlash.
“Our religion taught us for hundreds of years that we must wash our hands, faces and even our legs five times every day and our women should wear the niqab because they are often weaker. Already exist. “
“I left it to God to protect us,” said Ahmed Abdullah Ali, a shopkeeper in the capital. He attributed the high coughing during prayer to the change of seasons.
Dr. Abd al-Rahman Abdullah Abdi Bilal, who works in a clinic in the capital, said that the most important factor in protection is the relative youth of the Somali people. More than 80% of the country’s population is under the age of thirty.
“The virus is definitely there, but the resilience of people is due to their old age,” he said.
It is the lack of post-mortem investigations in the country that allows passage without discovering the true extent of the virus, he said.
The next challenge in Somalia is not just getting the COVID-19 vaccines, but also getting the population to accept them.
It will take time, Bilal said, “just like what it took our people to believe in the polio or measles vaccine.”
Haraba, responsible for the virus response in Somalia, agreed that “our people do not have much confidence in vaccines,” saying that many Somalis hate needles. He called for serious awareness campaigns to change minds.
The logistics of any COVID-19 vaccine rollout is another major concern. Harrah said that Somalia expects the first vaccines in the first quarter of 2021, but he is concerned that the country has no way to deal with a vaccine like Pfizer, which requires keeping it at a temperature of minus 70 degrees.
“One that can hold between minus 10 and 20 might fit a third world like ours,” he said.