Since it first emerged, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the social, economic and political lives of entire nations. Somalia joined the list of countries dealing with COVID-19 on 16 March 2020, when authorities announced the first confirmed case.
Since then, there have been many community champions that have taken the fight to COVID-19 on a local level.
One of them is Alaaso Dhalhow, a 52-year-old mother of four children in Dollow in the Gedo region in southern Somalia. Dressed in her traditional Somali attire, she leans back in her sit and spreads her arms wide open to welcome us to her humble abode.
“When COVID-19 hit at first, our community here in this village were scared and confused. Where did this virus come from? I have been told that everyone is at risk of contracting the dreadful virus – men, women, children, and the elderly. No one is spared”, she says.
“We have been advised to adhere to the Ministry of Health’s advice to stay home, sanitize, practice social distancing and avoid crowded places. However, this message has not hit home yet for many”.
Alaaso took it upon herself to protect not only her family but her community. Recognizing that there is no adequate treatment facility for COVID-19 in Dollow, she placed emphasis on educating her community members on hygiene measures to stop the spread of the virus and keep everyone healthy.
“To be honest we cannot rely on the local government because it is yet to respond to the pandemic due to numerous constraints. In addition, government interventions normally take ages to reach the ground”, she says.
“The solution is with us and within us”.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaaso’s community already faced severe challenges such as droughts, floods and an infestation of desert locusts eating away at the crops they heavily rely on.
- Alaaso Dhalhow
In the Gedo region, DRC has responded among other things by providing information to target communities. Radio talk shows, posters, and face-to-face awareness campaigns were conducted to avoid misleading information, and communities were trained on how to protect themselves and others along with training on handwashing, social distancing and hygiene measures.
In Dollow, Alaaso Dhalhow engaged in spreading correct information about the virus and the relevant protection measures.
“It was a big test for me, in the beginning, to sensitize my community members on COVID-19 and the necessary measures to protect themselves. I did not know how to translate the COVID-19 phenomenon into the local language, and it took time for me to convince everyone that the virus exists and can be fatal”, said Alaaso.
DRC also provided hygiene material to three hundred households in the project operation area. This includes Jerrycans, sanitation facilities, face masks, gloves, soap for handwashing, storage of clean water and laundry soaps for vulnerable women and households.
With engaged community members like Alaaso, who has taken it upon herself to fight COVID-19, establishing a community-led information strategy that involves collaborating with and mobilizing women groups, community health workers, and village elders, is possible and a great force in the battle against COVID-19.
This project was funded by the EU.