We know it’s just a matter of time before the Coronavirus reaches the communities we support in Somalia.
Trócaire is the only healthcare provider in a region called Gedo in the west of the country. Gedo is slightly larger than Ireland. The people there are incredibly reliant on the healthcare services we provide.
There is a huge amount of fear in Somalia right now. The country has 15 million people but only 15 intensive care (ICU) beds. If the Coronavirus takes hold here, it will cause devastation.
The challenges are huge but we have been planning our response to this pandemic for some time now. Because we have responded to cholera outbreaks in the past, we have experience in managing disease outbreaks.
We have pre-positioned personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies such as face masks, gloves and goggles as well as thermal temperature guns.
We are setting up isolation wards at the hospitals we run. These wards have to be situated away from patients accessing our malnutrition and maternity services. This is the biggest challenge of all – how to keep our existing life-saving work going as well as handling the pandemic.
We desperately need funds. One very simple example is when we create the isolation wards, we will need funds to feed the people in those wards. We’ve bought a number of small oxygen concentrators but we don’t have enough of them.
We have gowns, masks, goggles and gloves but we need more of them. We’ve got doctors and nurses, who are fantastically talented and motivated.
But to be able to respond properly to this crisis we are going to need more resources and help.
Our amazing supporters at home in Ireland always step-up to the challenge and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Hoping for the best while preparing for the worst
The needs here are already huge. We have people coming to us who don’t have any access to water and are crammed into very tight spaces in internally displaced camps. Hand washing and social distancing are not possible.
Many of these people – particularly children – are suffering malnutrition. Their immunity is badly compromised.
But we have an opportunity to make a real difference here. One of the things we’ve learned from cholera is that you can be overwhelmed by a medical response. A community health response is just as important.
This means working very closely with the community – children, adults, elders, religious leaders – to deepen the message around basic hygiene and social distancing.
Trócaire has 50 community health volunteers who are trained on health promotion. Getting them out into the communities to educate and inform people how to protect themselves is going to be so important in the weeks and months ahead.
It’s a very complicated situation here. Somalia is already one of the poorest countries in the world. We are very fearful for what the next few months hold in store.
We are just trying to prepare for the worst with our staff and make sure we do the best we can for the people that we serve.
Paul Healy is Trócaire’s Somalia Country Director.
COVID-19 knows no borders and neither does your compassion. We know not everyone is in a position to support this work right now, but if you can, please help us protect communities in Somalia and around the world from the COVID-19.
You can donate online or by phoning:
1850 408 408 (Republic of Ireland)
0800 912 1200 (Northern Ireland).