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Somalia: Somaliland donates $3 million to COVID-19 kitty as seven contract virus

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

HARGEISA, Somalia  - The northern Secessionist Somaliland state has donated $3 million to the kitty established ostensibly for the fight against Coronavirus, President Muse Bihi Abdi announced, as the region grapples with the pandemic.

As of Sunday, the separatist region of Somalia had registered seven positive cases, with most of them being concentrated in the capital Hargeisa, the health ministry said in a statement after the discovery of two more cases.

To prepare adequately for the fight against the virus, authorities announced a special kitty, which among others, will be used to cushion the vulnerable besides helping the state deliver necessary equipment to all hospitals.

Bihi, who has been in office since 2017, announced the contribution through his official Twitter handle, appealing also to the business community and international donors to help the state upscale it's level of preparation.

"Declared Somaliland COVID-19 Fund to combat the Pandemic in Somaliland. The Government donated the first 3 million USD to the Fund," he said. "We made an appeal to the business people and international donors to also contribute to the Fund, in the fight against COVID-19."

So far, no deaths are yet to be registered by the state, which declared self-independence in 1991 following the deadly civil war that left thousands dead and millions displaced during the autocratic reign of Siad Barre.

There have been talks to have the region reconcile with Somalia. In February, Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy organized a meeting between Bihi and Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, although no formal talks are yet to be engineered.

In a statement on Sunday, Somalia announced 164 positive cases of Coronavirus. The statistics include those tallied in Somaliland. Of that figure, seven have since died with only three recovering.

Already, international partners led by Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Alibaba Group and World Health Organization, have donated medical equipment to Somalia, some of which have been delivered in Hargeisa, officials said.

With almost dysfunctional healthcare, Somalia has been earmarked as one of the vulnerable nations, which could be severely affected by the disease. Due to the lack of essential testing equipment, only a few people have been tested.

The pandemic could leave over 300,000 Africans dead should precautions fail to serve the purpose, a report by Africa Economics Commission noted, citing a lack of basic health facilities in the 54 countries.

Among others, Somalia has suspended both domestic and international flights, learning activities and mass gatherings. In Mogadishu, a curfew was imposed as a measure to curb the spread of the virus across the country, authorities said.

But despite orders to have journalists spared, reports indicate that three reporters attached to Radio Shebelle were roughed up by the police on Sunday, a move who has triggered criticism from the union of journalists.

"On behalf of the Federation of Somali Journalists, we condemn any harassment and intimidation against Shabelle journalists by Somali security forces. We demand a full investigation of the incident," said Mohamed Moalimuu, the union's Secretary-General.

Most of the cases are concentrated within Mogadishu. Besides Somaliland's seven cases, Jubaland recorded two while Puntland registered one on Sunday, officials said. AMISOM has since stepped in to help the vulnerable population.

To date, there are close to 2.3 million infections worldwide in Coronavirus. Of these cases, 145,000 have died with close to 600,000 recovering from the disease, John Hopkins University data indicates.