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Regional health officials alarmed at rise of COVID in Kismayo

Friday April 2, 2021

   Photo: UN Somalia

Kismayo (HOL) - Residents in Kismayo are alarmed about the rise of deaths in the city, which many believe is the result of COVID-19, which health officials believe is spreading in the community.

According to regional data, the Jubaland Ministry of Health says that the disease has spread its tentacles throughout Kismayo and its surrounding areas.

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Coronavirus testing on March 31, 18 out of 27 people tested for COVID-19 were positive. That same day, three people died from COVID in Jubaland. Just over a month ago, there were 316 known cases of COVID-19 in Jubaland; now, there are close to 700. The number of deaths in the same period went from 13 to 31.

However, experts fear that the official data only tells a small part of the story, with only a small number of people coming forward to be tested. Their fears have been exasperated by the high number of deaths in Kismayo, particularly the elderly, suspected of being a result of COVID-19.

Abdullahi Aden Hassan, head of public awareness at the Jubaland Ministry of Health, told HOL that very few people are being tested for the disease, which is why the exact number of cases is not known.

"People need to be more educated about the virus. When a person is sick, they most often don't get tested. Someone with the disease is likely passing it on to many people, without even knowing it," Abdullahi told HOL.

Ibrahim Abdi, a remittance worker in Kismayo, said the death toll had risen sharply in recent months. 

He said that he had noticed the increase in the number of people being brought to the local cemetery. He said nine bodies were buried this morning and that 18 people had been buried in the two days before that. He added that they had brought in industrial machinery to help with the grave-digging, whereas before, they would dig by hand.

COVID-19 vaccine delivered to Jubaland

Somalia received 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in mid-March through the World Health Organization's global vaccine-sharing program COVAX. However, health experts in the region say that the 30,000 earmarked for Kismayo will not be enough to contain the virus as it continues to spread.

Lower Juba and the Gedo will share the doses, with each receiving 15,000.

Abdullahi Hassan says that the vaccination work is progressing well, with services being provided at most city health facilities. He said that the health ministry is currently vaccination against people over the age of 50.

Doctors are concerned about the spread of the disease and lack of understanding in the community and have called on the federal and regional ministries of health to intensify public awareness.

"People will continue to die if we stay on this path. The disease is spreading widely in our community. There should be a focus on public awareness. I also recommend that we impose restrictions on social gatherings and temporarily shut down schools," said Dr. Nuradin Abdullahi.

Jubaland Minister of Health, Dr. Mursal Mohamed Khalif, said that his administration was working hard to contain the virus but said that the federal government is withholding funds that would greatly assist them in their fight against COVID-19.

Dr.Khalif told HOL that half a million dollars of COVID relief funds from international donors have yet to be released to Jubaland. He said that the money is desperately needed for PPE and running public awareness campaigns.

Although the disease is spreading in Kismayo, no measures have been taken by the Jubaland regional government to control the disease, including restrictions on public gatherings, educational institutions, and mosques.


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