Somalia: Covid-19 and little known formula that will resolve leadership vacuum

Caasimada OnlineBy Caasimada Online

London, May 19, 2020 (  – Each week, Innov East will offer struggling organisations and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa a tailored programme to analyse and reduce the deadly coronavirus from the very best of Innov East. In times of crisis, leadership plays a vital role, and Innov East encourages leaders to put aside their differences and lead the east African nation of 12 million people through this challenging time.

Fawzia Nur, Health Minister, said “59 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus and 1502 confirmed cases in Somalia”, the highest death rate in East Africa. The country is unprepared, without basic facilities such as clean water, access for ICU beds and ventilators. World Health Organisation has warned Africa will be overwhelmed by the virus. Although Covid-19 has been detected all over Africa, the numbers of those infected have not skyrocketed like in Europe and the USA.

Coronavirus is real with neither vaccine nor cures so far. Somalia is recovering from decades of civil war and cannot be compared with other neighbouring countries, yet people need decisive and trustworthy leadership. The leaders have to analyse, act and adopt a strategy to combat the disease. Innov East provides assistance and support needed for leaders to make clear choices, take difficult decisions and win over people’s trust. Since the 16th of March, when the first confirmed Covid-19 registered, leaders’ obvious weakness has been a power failure in crisis management, particularly their communications.

Covid-19 disinformation circulated widely on social media. Traditional healers boasted about their ability to cure the coronavirus. Rumours and myths about the disease appeared to be more credible to many people. Adam Hashi, a resident in Garowe, Somalia, said “Having a conversation with ordinary Somalis, they are either in denial or providing you advice and possible prevention of the virus. People have clearly taken the lead to equipping themselves with intense unscientific interventions to stop transmission of the novel coronavirus. They filled the vacuum which federal government and state leaders have created. This could jeopardise getting efforts right with serious consequences for public health.

Leaders face challenges in managing crisis. Federal government and states made spontaneous decisions by declaring night curfews, suspending regional transportations and closing schools without giving the country time to prepare for a lockdown. Such swift government moves resulted in riots, tensions among states and contradictory messages. Head of states’ call for curfew has been described as petty, dictatorial-minded and out-of-touch. To avoid powerlessness and ineffective and desultory leadership, Innov East can provide its expertise to enable leaders to study the situation carefully and came up with phased government strategy.

In countries with weak governance and sensitive society, the need for culturally acceptable action to stop the spread of the coronavirus is the highest priority, before it takes hold, as had happened in Iran, Italy and Spain. The slogan “Stay at Home” wouldn’t relate to many people and it is impractical. Ordinary people cannot self-isolate, as they live in shared and crowded places. Currently over 2.65 million Somalis remain internally displace and a further unaccounted number of people live below the poverty line. In addition, they are hard to reach out and provide the necessary information about self-isolation, risks and prevention of Covid-19. The idea of testing, tracing and isolating is unachievable and data is thin and undetailed.

The daily briefings from the Health Ministry tell us merely death and infected figures of the virus. Innov East offers here more detailed information such as a number of new cases in a given time period, people who are ever likely to be infected and present more reliable estimates of the rate at which the Covid-19 is spreading “R-value”. The impact of dealing with inadequate technology, virology experts and wider coordination should not be underestimated and Innov East is here to help.

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