Jubaland; the next hotspot for COVID-19 in Somalia?

KISMAYO, Somalia – Jubaland, the federal state of southern Somalia to the west, recorded the highest number of positive cases for the coronavirus on Wednesday, adding to the exponential increase in cases in recent weeks, a decision that puts the lives of millions of people at risk.

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While announcing national statistics, Health Minister Dr Fawziya Abikar noted the “strange” increase in cases in Jubaland, a state that had barely 10 cases a few weeks ago. A total of 46 cases were reported concerning the state, bringing the regional total to 98.

In his speech, Abikar added that “we have intensified the tests and Jubaland has recorded many cases. Most of them have been discovered in the city of Kismayo”. Kismayo is the regional administrative capital of the state and was captured from Al-Shabaab seven years ago.

At 98, Jubaland is now the fourth region most affected by the deadly virus, which has anchored economic activities not only across Somalia but also around the world. There are a total of over 4 million cases to date worldwide, with the United States in the lead.

But in Somalia, a country with an almost dysfunctional health system, the region of Banadir, which shelters the capital Mogadishu, comes first with 1080 cases. Semi-autonomous Puntland comes second with 161, while the Somaliland secessionist has 131 cases.

Others are also fighting the virus: the southwest with 83, Galmadug 12 and HirShabelle with only 8 cases. There are a total of 1,571 cases in Somalia, of which 188 have recovered while 61 have since died, the highest figure in East and the Horn of Africa.

While Somalia has put in place various mechanisms to fight the disease, the icy relationship between President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Jubaland regional chief Ahmed Madobe may be the biggest concern in the face of increasing cases in the West.

The two sides have been involved in a political conflict in recent weeks, which has seen the federal government “invade” the Gedo region through the SNA and Ethiopian troops, a move that Jubaland has called “naked aggression” in one of the rebuttals.

Cooperation between the two entities has been called into question due to the recent assaults, which threaten the federal government’s provision of medical aid to the region, a measure that could still expose millions of people to possible death.

Recently, Mohamud Sayid Aden, vice president of Jubaland, said that a plane carrying medical supplies to Kismayo had been prevented from traveling, a request to which the federal government has not yet responded. The plane, he added, “has been blocked for no substantial reason, we risk losing lives because of this disease”.

A fortnight ago, Madobe ordered the closure of all mosques and restaurants, arguing that they are the “weak links” in the spread of the coronavirus, adding that “we need the immediate help of friends international because this virus is destructive, especially for Jubaland “.

Residents, he added, “must adopt social distance and were masks” as a measure to curb the spread. He also asked the federal government to “bury its differences with the member states” to jointly win this “terrible” war.

With 98 cases in just one month, the state could now be the next hotspot for COVID-19, a decision that could further illuminate the political dynamic given the tense relations with the Mogadishu administration, which has not yet contacted Madobe for dialogue.

To help cushion the vulnerable in Jubaland, the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF], a key ally of the current administration, has donated food and other essential medical supplies to some of the areas in sectors II and VI of AMISOM jurisdictions.

On Wednesday, for example, the team under the command of Brigadier Paul Njema distributed food such as Zakat al Fire in the town of Dhobley, with surrounding areas such as Lakoley and Banjoun near Kismayo also being among the beneficiaries.

The skies of Somalia have been described as dangerous by some of the aid agencies, which are responsible for sending medical supplies across the war-torn country, hence the fear of an influx of infections into Jubaland, which was faced with an attack by the Mogadishu administration.

On May 4, a Kenyan plane transporting medical supplies to the southwestern state was shot down by non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops working closely with the FGS, raising fears about safety from heaven.

The two criticized the KDF team, which works closely with Jubaland president Ahmed Madobe.


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