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Amid Coronavirus pandemic, UN pledges to stand with Somalis

By Staff Reporter , GAROWE ONLINE
Fowziya Abiikar Nor, Somalia's health minister during video conference with officials including UN envoy James Swan.

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The United Nations Mission in Somalia [UNSOM] will work "shoulder to shoulder" with Somalis, Chief envoy James Swan said, in a bid to curb unprecedented spread of COVID-19 across the country.

Defined by poor health structure and logistics, Somalia has been earmarked as one of vulnerable nation, in which the pandemic could cause massive loss of lives, should it spread in rural areas.

As of Tuesday, only three positive cases had been confirmed by the ministry of health, but one has since recovered. A total of 31 cases have so far been tested in the country, officials said, adding that 18 returned negative, but ten are pending.

“The UN family in Somalia stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Somalia during this testing time," Swan said in a statement. "We will continue to support all efforts to address the immediate health and long-term socio-economic impact of COVID-19."

Already, the FGS has imposed tough restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, including the recent suspension of both domestic and international flights.

Besides banning mass public gatherings and meetings, authorities also suspended religious gatherings including learning at Madrassa, as COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage even the economically stable nations.

“We must all unite to prevent the spread of the virus. We need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable in our communities, including internally displaced people, the infirm and the elderly," added Mr. Swan.

The United Nations now says everyone is important in the fight against the pandemic, which has left over 40,000 people dead. Of 650,000 who contracted the virus, 142,000 have since recovered, reports indicate.

Last week, UN boss Antonio Guiterres called for immediate ceasefire from among insurgents, a request which is yet to be implemented by Al-Qaida linked Al-Shabaab group. The group's latest attack came on Sunday night in which Nugal Governor Abdisalam Hassan was killed.

While reinforcing the SG statement, Swan insisted that “this is essential in order for life saving assistance to reach communities across the country". Ceasefire, he added, will enable the UN to channel resources to the fight against COVID-19.

To reinforce the ongoing efforts to contain COVID-19 at the federal and state levels as well as limit the possibility of further spread of the virus, the United Nations has established system-wide operating, medical and support procedures, he noted.

A task force has been established to ensure business continuity and agencies have developed a detailed preparedness and response plan in support of the Government’s efforts.

“Our robust support to Somalia continues,” Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula said. “All agencies remain engaged and continue to deliver critical assistance to those most in need.”

World Health Organization [WHO] is working around the clock to establish a laboratory in Somalia for testing of the virus. At the moment, the medical team relies on a lab set in Nairobi, several miles away from Mogadishu, officials said.

But WHO is engaged in Somalia in helping case findings, contact tracing, testing, isolation and containment activities with aim of virus suppression, Dr. Rahman Malik said.

“We will continue to work as One UN and keep the country safe showing our solidarity, unity and partnership with the government," the WHO representative added.

For its part, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia [UNSOS] continues to carry out its mandate to provide logistics support to the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM], as well as elements of the Somalia security forces engaged in joint security operations with AMISOM, the statement reads in a part.

The UN COVID-19 Response Task Force Coordinator, UNSOS Director Amadu Kamara, is joining the Somali national task force for COVID-19 response. In this context, UNSOS and AMISOM were able to assist the Somali government to respond to the first suspected COVID-19 cases.

Distribution of food is also being done across Somalia through the Food and Agricultural Organization [FAO], in a programme which targets thousands of vulnerable families in the country, the UN said.

Italy has borne the brunt of the disease, recording a total of 11,000 deaths. Last week, Somalia joined the world in showcasing solidarity with Rome by dispatching 20 volunteer doctors, Ismail Mukhtaar, the spokesperson confirmed.


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