Somalia’s fast-rising cases of Covid-19 are exposing African Union Mission peacekeepers to the disease, risking key operations against the militant group al-Shabaab.
Lacking adequate health infrastructure and personnel, Somalia had recorded 873 cases and 38 deaths by Thursday. The country had 26 cases just two weeks ago.
Sources within the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) told The EastAfrican that so far there have been 30 confirmed cases in the Ugandan contingent and seven among Burundi troops. Amisom has troops from Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi.
Affected Amisom soldiers are being attended to in Halane, which is within the camps, and their condition is a matter of military intelligence.
Al-Shabaab is already spreading propaganda that Covid-19 is a punishment for non-believers.
Since the advent of Covid-19, Amisom has scaled down its operations in the war against Al-Shabaab, and are only conducting low key operations in Lower Shabbelle, avoiding unnecessary exposure. The Somalia government lacks the capacity to enforce lockdowns in Mogadishu and the vast rural areas controlled by the militia.
Early this week, Abdirizak Yusuf Ahmed, who is leading the response team against Covid-19 in Somalia, warned the world that there could be thousands of untested cases in the country.
Shortage of supplies
Mogadishu’s Martini Hospital is the only facility handling cases of Covid-19 amidst critical shortage of medical supplies and personnel. The country has only three laboratories for testing for Covid-19, with millions living in camps for internally displaced persons who have limited access to running water.
There is scanty information on the spread of the disease, but a recent survey by the East African Centre for Research and Strategic Studies (ECRSS), conducted between April 15 and May 3, revealed over 50 per cent of the Mogadishu population could be affected, with fatalities 10 times more than the official government figures.
Abdalla Ahmed Ibrahim, the ECRSS director, said the lack of co-ordination between the federal states and the central government led by President Abdallah Mohamed Abdallah Farmaajo is a weak link in the pandemic fight. He added that no one follows government directions on social distancing as they attend family Ramadhan evening prayers.