Coronavirus – Somalia: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and WHO partner to strengthen testing capacity for COVID-19 in Somalia

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On Sunday 26th April 2020, the first batch of COVID-19 testing results were announced in Garowe, Puntland. A total of 11 tests had been conducted with five being positive. This remarkable milestone is a result of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the World Health Organization (WHO) who worked together to enable laboratory capacity to be in place in Garowe under the leadership of the Ministry of Health to ensure needed testing capacity for COVID-19.

The achievement was made possible by adding specialized capacity to the existing Bureau of Forensic Science, which was established over the past three years through the support of UNFPA to allow analysis of DNA samples in real time to be used as evidence in sexual assault cases. Based on the already existing expert and technical laboratory capacity, WHO and UNFPA were able to further support this laboratory with essential supplies and diagnostic kits to rapidly establish its molecular testing capacity for detection of RNA samples from suspected cases of COVID-19 in Puntland.

“UNFPA is delighted to support the Government, hand-in-hand with WHO, to enable the testing COVID19. We took rapid joint action to repurpose the already-existing forensic laboratory so that it is not only able to bring justice on gender-based violence victims but also to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UNFPA Somalia Representative Anders Thomsen.

Mr. Thomsen pledged UNFPA’s continued support to the fight against COVID-19 by providing support to public awareness raising, disease prevention and protection of frontline health workers, including midwives.
WHO will also continue to provide support for quality assurance as well as other supplies and laboratory reagents in order to maintain its current bio-safety level required to test emerging and novel respiratory pathogen such as the COVID-19 at the Bureau of Forensic Science.

WHO Representative to Somalia, Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik said: “this is yet another example to showcase how we are working as One UN to fight against a common enemy. This partnership shows our shared responsibility and solidarity to early detect COVID-19 cases and save lives. This also shows how both WHO and UNFPA respect and value the need for advancing its common health agenda in the country through unity, partnerships, collaboration and effective coordination between the agencies. As the virus spreads, so does our unity to defeat it. ” The Bureau of Forensic Science in Puntland is now poised to scale up testing of suspected cases of COVID-19 in Somalia.

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