On the eve of April 1, 2020, the Prime Minister of Somalia delivered a much-needed national call to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that is looming large. Such a call comes a day after the US COVID-19 White House task force shockingly projected a best-case scenario of a potential death toll of up to 240,00 in the USA.
In the absence of any medical miracle to help victims of this killer, the Coronavirus pandemic not only attacks, in the words of Thomas Friedman, a “flat world,” but also an equalized world where both advanced and backward economies are helpless in this war.
The limits to power and technology has been exposed by this pandemic in real time. The power of medicine and skilled doctors in the West proved to be a not match to this ‘plague.” As master of fact, Italy with the best health plan and US with the highest medical technologies, are the most devastated two countries.
COVUD-19 attacks Somalia in its most inopportune time. Somali has yet to recover from the 30-year-old civil-war induced destruction of its state institutions, mainly those that cater to public health, welfare and safety. Where and if these institutions exist, they are very weak and may not make much of a dent if this pandemic spread.
Only, old fashion public health policy measures, therefore, seem to work against this pandemic of the 21st century. It was in that spirit that the Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Khayre, has delivered from his office a well-crafted call to minimize the spread of COVID-19 to his country. Prior to him, a similar call was made by President Said Deni who early on warned of his region’s residents the danger bore by this pandemic. Even former President Farole pitched in to explain how social distancing and other mitigation practices the only weapon Somalis could use.
Besides his usual polemical words, a landmark of his presentations, Mr. Khayre passionately appealed to Somali business community to not take advantage of the dire situation the country is facing and warned them not to embark on a price gouging spree. He emphasized how undesirable it is morally and politically to profit from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.
As an incentive, he rightly offered to the business community reduce taxes, particularly on essential items such as food, sanitizers, and goods used to minimize the spread of the pandemic. Prior to this set of policy removes, the Somali Federal Government, in collaboration with Federal Member States, mainly Puntland which received direct flight from outside, has restricted flights coming in and out of Somalia.
While all these actions are desirable to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which could last until this coming summer, the following additional actions can help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic inside Somalia:
- Make social distancing of mainly urban dwellers effective and workable by restricting movements of residents of mainly urban centers and confining them to their homes. Such an action would require that the government start set aside a modest budget, say about $10 or $20 million for distributing food items to low income people in the country’s cities. Although estimates of needed funds would depend on the government’s ability to secure such a fund, it can augment its financial ability by redirecting political budgets and temporarily suspending non-essential government programs to help poor citizens while observing social distancing for the reminder of the month of April and possible first part of May. As we know, this administration has spent a fortune (millions of dollars) on controlling political outcomes and regional elections, or even bribing parliamentarians to buy their loyalties. Redirecting funds from political budget to providing essential food items will protect thousands of Somali citizens in the next two months.
- Reassemble and redeploy government employees to serve the public so that they can deliver essential needs such as food items and needed sanitizers to indigents in the country. The government’s program to mitigate COVID-19 impacts can first target at highly overcrowded urban centers. In addition to police and first responders, even some contingents of the army, all non-essential government employees can help in the implementation of social distancing and when available distribute essential food and hygiene items.
- Hold a regular briefing that mainly concentrates on orienting the citizens about the importance of guidelines and practices of social distancing in COVID-19 era. People listen to their leaders in times of crisis and challenges. This is the time that leaders must convey clear and concise information on a regular basis.
Source: Wardheer News