Last week, I met thirteen-year, Hawo who lives with her family in a village in Puntland. The family moved to this village after they lost all their assets during the 2017 prolonged drought that affected many parts of Somalia. Moving here was very difficult for Hawo because she missed her school and friends back home. However after lots of efforts from her father, she was able to join a local school and continued with her education.
However, now things have changed for Hawo. Once again, she is miserable. She heard that the government has decided to shut down all schools as one of the measures to contain the spread of COVI-19 in Somalia and keep children and their families safe.
“I’m so devasted. I will miss school. I don’t know when we will resume so that I can continue with my education and meet my friends again. I don’t want to stay home. This really worries me,” she says.
As we all know in times of crisis including disease outbreaks, children bear the biggest brunt. They face multiple risks including exposure to infections, increased levels of violence and abuse, lack of access to health services and education as governments and partners prioritise their leadership and resources to address the immediate needs. While current trends indicate that children are not among the most vulnerable group for infections, the implications caused by the spread of COVID-19 on children in development and humanitarian settings, remains a major area for concern.
This situation is worse for Somalia due to its weak capacity to prevent, detect and respond to health crisis. According to Health Emergency Preparedness Index, Somalia scored six out of 100 in 2016—very poor. The number of health workers in different parts of the country is two per 100,000 people compared to the global standard of 25 per 100,000 people. Less than 20 per cent of health facilities have the required equipment and supplies to manage epidemics let alone a COVID19 pandemic. Additionally, about 4.2 million people – one third of the total population – are in need of humanitarian support and protection, including 2.5 million children.
This crisis has already disrupted the education of hundreds of thousands of children and interrupted their access to, not only the vital care and protection services, but also their general wellbeing, including their right to play and socialise. As a child rights organization, Save the Children has the obligation to adapt its strategies and approaches so that they are able to deliver services and protect the most vulnerable children, despite this worldwide pandemic. To respond to the needs of children impacted by the outbreak of, COVID-19, the country office has succeeded in securing an emergency fund of $650,000 from Education Cannot Wait programme. Then funding will support at least 15,000 students affected by school closure and enable them to access learning. The funding will support Save the Children to scale up awareness raising campaigns and create innovative platforms for remote learning.
In addition, we have has been working with the government and communities to raise awareness on the virus with the aim of slowing down the rate of transmissions and limit the impacts of the pandemic on children and their families in Somalia. We have established WASH facilities, conducted community mobilisation and sensitisation sessions, carried out massive media-based campaigns through TVs, Radios and Social Media channels as well as support mobile teams who have been going around communities to raise awareness on COVID-19 and importance of following the government and WHO guidelines to contain the spread.
We are also working with Ministries of Education to ensure children will not miss out on their education and minimize the impact of school closure through online/distance learning. Right now our education teams are exploring innovation and new ways of delivering learning so that children can continue learning. Children in the remote areas will also be provided an opportunity to attend remedial and catch-up classes for children who missed lessons.
Furthermore, we are working with the Federal Government and regional Administrations, organizing more than 700 volunteers including hygiene promoters, community nutrition volunteers and community health workers visiting communities including IDP settlements, meeting people at water points, health centers and other public places to educate them on the risks of COVID-19 and how to protect themselves and their families. We have operationalized more than 60 mobile health teams and continue to support 325 health facilities across the country to continue to provide nutrition and health services to the children and their parents.
However more need to be done to mitigate the impact of COVIDE19 on children around the world and in Somalia specifically. There is a need to ensure all the response plans do prioritise children and addressing their emotional, physical and psychological needs during these difficult times. We should ensure children like Hawo are supported to continue learning as well as their fears are addressed.
Source: Save the Children