Jubaland; the next hotspot for COVID-19 in Somalia?
KISMAYO, Somalia - Jubaland, Somalia's southern Federal state to the West recorded the highest number of Coronavirus positive cases on Wednesday, adding to the exponential rise of the cases in the recent weeks, a move which puts lives of millions of people in jeopardy.
While announcing national statistics, health minister Dr. Fawziya Abikar noted the "strange" rise in Jubaland cases, a state which barely had 10 cases a few weeks ago. A total of 46 cases were announced in relation to the state, taking the regional tally to 98.
In her speech, Abikar added that "we intensified testing and Jubaland recorded many cases. Most of them were discovered in Kismayo city". Kismayo is the regional administrative capital for the state and was captured from Al-Shabaab seven years ago.
At 98, Jubaland is now the fourth most affected region with the deadly virus, which has grounded economic activities not only across Somalia but also globally. There are a total of over 4 million cases so far worldwide, with the United States leading.
But in Somalia, a country with an almost dysfunctional healthcare system, the Banadir region, which hosts the capital Mogadishu, leads with 1080 cases. Semi-autonomous Puntland comes second with 161 while secessionist Somaliland has 131 cases.
Others also battling with the virus is Southwest with 83, Galmadug 12, and HirShabelle with just 8 cases. There is a total of 1,571 cases in Somalia, of which 188 have recovered while 61 have since died, the highest figure within East and the Horn of Africa.
While Somalia has put various mechanisms to combat the disease, the frosty relationship between President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Jubaland's regional leader Ahmed Madobe could be the biggest concern over the rising cases in the West.
Both sides have been embroiled in a political tussle in recent weeks, which saw the federal government "invade" Gedo region through SNA and Ethiopian troops, a move which Jubaland termed as "naked aggression" in one of the rebuttals.
Cooperation between the two entities has been questioned due to recent onslaught, which threatens the delivery of medical aid to the region from the federal government, a move that could further expose millions to possible deaths.
Recently, Mohamud Sayid Aden, the Jubaland Vice President, claimed a plane carrying medical supplies to Kismayo had been blocked from traveling, a claim which the federal government is yet to respond to. The plane, he added, "was blocked without any substantial reason, we risk losing lives to this disease".
A fortnight ago, Madobe ordered the closure of all mosques and eateries, arguing that they are the "weak links" in the spread of Coronavirus, adding that "we need immediate help from international friends because this virus is destructive especially to Jubaland".
Residents, he added, "must embrace social distancing and were masks" as a measure to curb the spread. He also asked the federal government to "bury it's differences with members states" for the sake of jointly winning this "terrible" war.
With 98 cases in just a month, the state could now be the next hotspot for the COVID-19, a move that could further inform the political dynamics given the strained relationship with Mogadishu administration, which is yet to reach out Madobe for dialogue.
To help cushion the vulnerable within Jubaland, Kenya Defense Forces [KDF], a key ally to the current administration, has been donating foodstuffs and other medical essentials to some of the regions within Sector II and VI of AMISOM jurisdictions.
For instance on Wednesday, the team under the command of Brigadier Paul Njema, distributed foodstuffs as Zakat al Fire in Dhobley town with surrounding areas such as Lakoley and Banjoun near Kismayo also being part of the beneficiaries.
Somalia skies have been termed dangerous by some of the aid agencies, which are responsible for dispatching of medical supplies across the war-torn nation, thus the fear of an influx of infections in Jubaland, which has been facing an onslaught from the Mogadishu administration.
On May 4, a Kenyan aircraft carrying medical supplies to the Southwest state was downed by Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops, who closely work with FGS, thus the fears about the safety of the skies.
The two have been critical of the KDF team, which closely works within Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe.