A team committed to standing by the people they serve…
Over the past few years, Alight teams in Somalia have faced down challenge after challenge. Extreme drought and famine impact displaced people disproportionately. Refugees returning to Somalia after decades away face new hurdles as they struggle to build livelihood and community back home. Political instability is an ever-present threat. Recently, locusts and flooding threaten to destabilize farmers and communities. But through it all, our teams have been there to help, doing the doable to protect the people we serve.
Now, along with the rest of the world, they’re faced with a new crisis—how to prevent and respond to COVID-19. But risk after risk, our teams in Somalia are still showing up, doing everything they can to help and reach more people than ever. It’s a commitment they’ve made—that no matter how hard it gets, they’re here for it.
COVID-19 Response in a Fragile State
Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee) has been operating in Somalia since 2010, providing protection support, healthcare services, livelihoods support, water and sanitation services and more. Over the last few years, we’ve helped communities prepare as refugees return to their homes, as is the case in Kismayo, where we’ve helped rebuild the fishing industry. We operate more than 20 health clinics across the country. Despite the circumstances that the team faces—lack of infrastructure, insecurity, and more—we have a proven track record of service provision spanning decades.
But fragile states like Somalia are faced with unique risks during the coronavirus pandemic. Access to resources and information, literacy rates, and insecurity all contribute to the lack of reliable public health information when it comes to COVID-19.
Somalia has the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 in the Horn of Africa region. The situation is being exacerbated by the devastating flash floods and the worst desert locust infestation in 25 years. If local transmission of COVID-19 isn’t slowed, the surge in patients and increasing demand for healthcare may overwhelm the country’s fragile health system.
Kuja Kuja, our real-time customer feedback system that is now active in Somalia, helped us understand more deeply what people are asking about, and asking for, during the pandemic. Their biggest request? Access to more information. The WHO’s messages are simply not getting through.
Spreading the Message: COVID-19 Prevention in Refugee Camps and Across the Country
In this unprecedented moment, vulnerable or underserved communities become even more marginalized. Listening to our customers, we knew that we needed to act urgently to address the inequity in access to information and support for communities in Somalia. Alight’s In Our Hands campaign, deployed around the world, aimed to do just that.
The campaign uses tailored messaging and communications, alternative media and word-of-mouth channels, and a different approach to campaign strategy to reach the hardest-to-reach populations in Somalia.
This includes the use of megaphones attached to vehicles in IDP camps to spread the message, radio messages,TV messages, social media campaigns, door to door messaging, and more. Since illiteracy rates run as high as 70% in some communities, thinking creatively on how to get the message out is key. With accurate, reliable information getting into the hands of people who need it most, we’re hoping to prevent the spread of coronavirus before it reaches the most at-risk communities.
Our teams are getting the message out however they can. Here, the COVID prevention information is shared via megaphone and attached to a vehicle in Dhobley, Somalia. The message is translated to: “COVID-19 is a pandemic virus that affects us all globally. Here are the symptoms of this virus: dry cough, intensive fever, difficulty breathing, etc. To avoid this virus, you need to stay at home, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, social distance, use face masks, gloves, etc. If you have these symptoms, call the emergency number, seek support from the nearest hospital and quarantine yourself before you receive services.”
Supporting Frontline Staff to Stop the Spread of Coronavirus
Alongside responding to the community’s request for more COVID-related messaging, during this time it’s imperative that we help frontline staff get more resources to the people that need them most. That includes soap distribution to displaced families in Mogadishu, getting material and food support to the most vulnerable, extending water pipelines, especially to schools, and protecting women and girls from violence as instability increases.
With 6% of confirmed COVID-19 cases coming from frontline healthcare workers, health teams in the country are concerned about getting infected or infecting others, especially with lack of adequate PPE. So the Somalia team is also providing continuous support to frontline healthcare workers, ensuring access to PPEs and psychosocial support, while identifying and building capacity for potential surges.
And, we’re on the frontlines of COVID-19 monitoring and surveillance, reporting active cases and referring them for treatment. Teams have conducted health education sessions on COVID-19 across all Alight-supported facilities, and they’ve provided support for isolation centers, donating 20 medical beds, 10 oxygen machines, PPEs, and other supplies. They’ve also provided training for emergency response teams.
As the country experiences changes in modes of business and reduction of activities, we’re on the lookout for how we can help communities weather the storm. Markets, hotels, and restaurants have closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, which have impacted daily-wage workers, casual laborers and low-income households. Trade flow has been disrupted due to border closures or truck drivers withdrawing their services for fear of contracting the virus, causing a further increase in the price of essential food items. On top of everything, the cost of public transport has increased by 30% due to the required limit on the number of passengers able to use public transportation. The cost of normal, daily life is already becoming too high for families to afford.
We know that as the crisis continues and deepens, the complications will only grow. But we’ll be there, like we have for the past 10 years, every step of the way.
You Can Help Our Somalia Teams Battle Covid-19
Stopping the spread of the coronavirus is in our hands. This is the moment to join together, to keep each other safe, to protect our most vulnerable, and to spread kindness. There are many ways you can assist our coronavirus relief efforts in Somalia and refugee camps around the globe. If you have any questions about Alight or our programs, don’t hesitate to contact u