MOGADISHU, Somalia, June 3, 2020/ — Ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients are being supplied by IOM, the International Organization for Migration, to help thousands of Somalis affected by the disease.
The ventilators, donated to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), and funded by the multi-donor Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF), will be used to set up an intensive care unit at the De Martino Hospital, the main public hospital in the country’s capital designated by the country’s Ministry of Health to treat COVID-19 cases .
The donation comes against the backdrop of daily increases in number of COVID-19 cases in Somalia. So far over 1,976 people have tested positive and nearly 80 have died. The country has the second highest number of positive cases in East and Horn of Africa. The FGS has in place a health taskforce to fight the disease. It suspended all international and domestic flights, and established isolation facilities to try and mitigate exposure to the infection, when the first case was reported on March 16.
Somalia’s health system infrastructure remains extremely fragile. There are only nine ventilators in the hospital that will receive the donation, insufficient to face a major outbreak.
“With this donation, hospital capacity will be strengthened to save lives, protect its workers and provide better healthcare to those in critical conditions due to the virus,” said H.E Dr. Fawziya Abikar Nur, Minister for Health and Human Services. During the handover ceremony held at the hospital today (02 June)in Mogadishu, the Minister added: “We appreciate the crucial support provided by IOM, SHF and all other partners working with the Federal Government of Somalia to contain the spread COVID-19 and to provide life-saving treatment to our people.”
With the SHF funding, IOM is also providing medical specialists, and donating medical equipment such as personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, to help the government’s COVID-19 response.
Due to the large population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Somalia—2.6 million in displacement camps across the country, half of them in Mogadishu—the pandemic poses a substantial threat.
“IDPs are among the most vulnerable if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in a settlement,” said the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mr. Adam Abdelmoula. “The conditions in IDP camps, including the lack of sanitation and WASH facilities, threat of evictions and lack of access to health care facilities, could create a dangerous environment that would accelerate the spread of the virus.”
The UN in Somalia is committed to work with the authorities to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable groups are addressed. This includes immediate assistance, such as food and cash distribution, and longer-term support, such as providing livelihood opportunities and strengthening the social protection networks.
The De Martino Hospital in Mogadishu provides free health care to IDPs and other vulnerable groups. According to Director of Hospital Dr Abdirizak Yusuf Ahmed: “This hospital is one of the only health facilities in Mogadishu that is accessible for people without resources. If we want to beat COVID-19 in Somalia everyone should have equal access to treatment.”
As the leading UN agency for border control and psychosocial care, IOM is conducting capacity building training on COVID-19 prevention and treatment and distributing medical equipment, supplies and hygiene kits. IOM is also deploying Somali expatriate medical experts to fill gaps in health facilities across the country.
Just before the Eid festivities ending Ramadan, IOM launched #SomaliaResponds in partnership with the Ministry of Health, an individual giving campaign to raise funds and support the De Martino Hospital and other medical facilities in Somalia. The goal is to raise USD 100,000 to buy the necessary equipment and supplies to meet the needs of those affected by the disease.
“IOM will continue supporting the health authorities in Somalia to ensure that no one is left behind in the COVID-19 response,” said Richard Danziger, Chief of Mission for IOM Somalia.