As the Covid-19 pandemic takes hold in Somalia, government agencies, with support from humanitarian and development actors, have made considerable efforts to contain the risk of virus-spread in the country. Border closures, curfews, restrictions on gatherings and quarantine measures have all sought to limit movement while mass messaging by mobile phone, radio, social media and by way of influential community leaders has concentrated on handwashing, hygiene and social distancing.
Notably however, while this official messaging reflects World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance and prevailing lessons from countries that have managed to contain an outbreak of Covid-19, it presents significant challenges for large populations with limited access to soap and water, highly congested and inadequate shelter, and reliance on daily wage labour to meet basic needs.
The Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 recognises 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) as among the most affected and at-risk populations in Somalia, noting that people have “limited access to quality essential health care and water and sanitation services and live in crowded urban and semi-urban areas.” A consolidated effort is required from all authorities, humanitarian and development actors to help mitigate the direct and collateral impacts of the virus on these communities, the foundation for which depends on clear, two-way communication and partnerships to help understand how displacement-affected communities see risks and how they want to address them.
As the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) embarks on efforts to mitigate the direct and indirect impacts of Covid-19 on displacement-affected people in Somalia, and in anticipation of more drastic restrictions on movement, we have sought to engage with communities to understand what they know about Covid-19, where they perceive risks, how they receive information and what they most need.
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