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Press Release

Somalia faces another desperate situation as COVID-19 cases spiral, IRC calls for increased support to save lives

With more than 830 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Somalia, the IRC warns 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 spiraling 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.”

The IRC has launched a US $30 million appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations. We are working across three key areas: to mitigate and respond to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities; protect IRC staff; and ensure the continuation of our life-saving programming as much as possible across more than 40 countries worldwide.

The IRC began working in Somalia in 1981 in the aftermath of the Somalia-Ethiopia conflict. With 190 local staff, the IRC works to address the immediate humanitarian needs of the Somali population while simultaneously supporting the resilience and development of the country. 

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.