Somali frontline hero, a nurse at Martini Hospital


It was an early evening in late 2019 when the Chinese authorities announced that a respiratory pandemic killed several people in Wuhan, a city in China. There are many controversial stories about how the virus came into contact with humans. Some say it was created in lab while others argue otherwise. 

According to the (New Scientist, 2020)  On 11 February, the World Health Organization announced that the official name would be Covid-19, a shortened version of coronavirus disease 2019. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses calls it the “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”, or SARS-CoV-2 because it is related to the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. However, to avoid confusion with SARS the WHO calls it the Covid-19 virus when communicating with the public. This pandemic has killed people and kept many others in lockdown restricting people’s movements and interactions. Once the world realized how fast the virus is killing people and unfortunately there is no cure or vaccination for it almost every country closed its borders. As the virus spread the measures to curb the spread of the virus increased. On 11 March, the WHO announced that the outbreak should be considered a pandemic – a term that has no universally agreed definition, but means that multiple countries are seeing sustained transmission between people of an outbreak causing disease or death (New Scientist, 2020). 

Covid-19 is considered a global pandemic that has affected the lives of people on earth in one way or another. Globalization, the promise of open borders and mobility of goods and people, made it possible for this destructive pandemic to spread globally in months (Katharina, 2020). This immediately led to a total global lockdown that left airplanes and many other automobiles idle. 

However, several countries in Africa have not received the WHO’s message clearly. Somalia, a country that faced many challenges over the past decades confirmed its first Covid-19 case on March 16 and currently has just over 580 cases, with 28 confirmed deaths from the disease. (Abdullahi, 2020). Regardless of the weak Somali Health System, there are awful speculations and propaganda around the contagion in Somalia. Many Somalis do not actually people the existence of the disease, while others believe that Covid-19 is some sort of divine punishment from God to nonbelievers as they call it. Sources say that the extremists in Somalia are behind this dangerous propaganda that is exposing thousands of Somalis to this virus that forced millions to stay and work from home (Abdullahi, 2020). These types of propaganda are just a power struggle for the extremist to challenge Mogadishu’s administration. In efforts to limit the transmission of the virus, the Somali government has announced a raft of measures to try to curb the virus’s spread, including the suspension of all international flights arriving or leaving the country, a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Mogadishu and other major cities in Somalia and the closure of schools and universities. Citizens are being urged to pray at home, not at mosques.

Somali Culture and family size.

Somalis are known for their big families and culture of living collectively where extended families interdependent on each other and share resources. These realities in Somalia are taking measures such as social distancing impossible. As mentioned in the UNFPA report (UNFPA, 2014), an average Somali family has six members. This number makes social distancing quite hard to achieve meaning WHO’s protective measures are simply directed towards Western families. It does not necessarily have a Somali contextualized measures that can work in a typical Somali community reality. An overcrowded family of six or more live in a small house which constantly interacts daily can and will most likely transmit the virus to a family member if one gets affected by Covid-19. Because of such reasons many Somalis are affected in the UK, Sweden, and Somalia. (Anne S., Othman M. & Molly E., 2020)

Furthermore, due to the political unrest, droughts, and the extremist group that Somalia wrestles with, there are many people in IDP camps around big cities in Somalia. There are two big IDP camps just outside of Mogadishu alone. These please in camps are even more vulnerable than others for three reasons. 

  1. They live in very overcrowded IDP camps that house 200,000 plus internally displaced poor people. 
  2. This community has tiny houses that could barely accommodate two people, let alone a big family. 
  3. And there are no hospitals with the capacity to manage the burden of this pandemic. 

“Somalia’s health system is ill-equipped to manage an increasing burden. COVID-19 puts additional pressure on the current system – it could mean complete shutdown or diminished service provision at all levels of healthcare,” says Ahmed Khalif, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in Somalia(Ferdosa, 2020). 

Moreover, Somalis have roots in the Islamic religion and a culture that is very dear to their hearts. Both the Islamic religion and the Somali culture encourage relatives to be mutually reliant on one another. They embrace the concept of family by supporting and taking care of one another. The “family” itself refers to an expansive kinship network, including extended family members. For instance, if one of them gets infected all the neighbors visit the sick person though they were told not to interact with an infected individual by the government and international health organizations (Cultural atlas, 2020). Such beliefs result in an exponential increase in the number of people that came into contact with coronavirus in Somalia and Somali communities outside Somalia. 

Despite intense efforts made by the weak yet trying Somali government to communicate basic protective measures against coronavirus to everyone in Somalia through radios and televisions, many people tend to be rebellious and intentionally ignore these measures. Markets and mosques in Mogadishu are filled with people inspire of the people that die for Covid-19 daily in Somalia. Coffee shops and restaurants are functional as usual without taking any precautions. Looking at the devastating statistics form Italy, China, and the USA, the mortality rates were brutal even with strictly implemented measures and advanced healthcare systems. Unfortunately, Somalia is on the verge of a disastrous situation were too many lives could be lost if nothing is done. 

Time to Respond.

That being said, urgent help is needed in Somalia to save the lives of millions of Somalia in IDP camps, cities, and rural areas. Somalia is not ready for a pandemic because of too many factors. The current government does not have the power to fully force its constituents to stay indoors. They do not have the financial or military power to enforce and maintain the intentionally accepted protective measures against Covid-19.  The healthcare system in Somalia is NOT equipped enough to fight the coronavirus. We do not have enough doctors, nurses, and hospitals. The hospitals are understaffed, under-equipped, and too scarcely to make a difference during these uncertain times the world is fighting the coronavirus. As a result, Somalia needs a helping hand in terms of funds and medical personnel. In addition, hospital beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) could play an important role in saving the lives of our frontline heroes, doctors, and nurses.


Hussein, F. (2020). Somalia Braces for COVID-19 Pandemic. Action Against Hunger. Retrieved 8 May 2020, from

Mackenthun, K. (2020). Globalisation a curse? – How Germany predicted COVID-19 years before its outbreak and still failed to prepare its national market for it. Retrieved 8 May 2020, from Globalisation a curse? – How Germany predicted COVID-19 years before its outbreak and still failed to prepare its national market for it.

Cultural Competence Program – Somali Culture – Family. Cultural Atlas. (2020). Retrieved 8 May 2020, from

Covid-19. New Scientist. (2020). Retrieved 8 May 2020, from

Coronavirus – Somalia: Joint Statement on COVID-19 | Africanews. Africanews. (2020). Retrieved 8 May 2020, from

Shahow, A. (2020). In al-Shabab’s Territory in East Africa, Pandemic Could Spread Like Wildfire. Retrieved 8 May 2020, from

POPULATION ESTIMATION SURVEY 2014 – SOMALIA. (2014). Retrieved 8 May 2020, from

Speckhard, A., Mahamud, O., & Ellenberg, M. (2020). When Religion and Culture Kill: COVID-19 in the Somali Diaspora Communities in Sweden – Homeland Security Today. Retrieved 8 May 2020, from