[Op-ed]: A day in the life of a Somali Covid-19 community mobiliser
Covid-19 messaging in Somalia saves lives but there’s still those who don’t take the virus seriously, writes Zahra Mahamoud Jama, UNICEF community social mobiliser.
I have always loved being a community social mobiliser, especially working with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Somalia. When I visit homes and sit with mothers and talk to them about good hygiene and health practices, like getting their babies vaccinated, I feel incredibly proud. I know I am making a difference for these families and I know I am helping mothers keep their babies healthy and strong.
Then the world changed with the Covid-19 outbreak. At first, I only heard about it happening in other countries – countries far away from us. At first, many of us did not believe it would come here and then in March we got our first case.
That is when my job became even more important and more dangerous.
I realised right at the beginning that we must work together to combat this disease. I also knew that there would be challenges. Daily life for Somali women and children is dif enough as it is: many live in abject poverty; many have been displaced multiple times due to floods and conflict and live in crowded IDP camps; and Somalia’s health systems are fragile and overburdened.
And now another threat looms over the most vulnerable, a threat that even developed countries cannot control.
Therefore, I now focus on educating families about the preventative measures they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones from the Covid-19 virus.
I wake up every morning, and while I know this is my moral duty, I am scared but this is my job and I am not going to succumb to fear. Before I leave my house, I wash my hands and put on gloves and a mask and my day begins.
I go into the community and call on families to talk about Covid-19.
Overall, some people are aware of the disease and eager to learn more about what they can do to stop the spread.
‘It is real, it can kill’
But, sadly, others are in denial about the seriousness of the disease. Some even brag and say they are not afraid of the virus. I spend a lot of time with these people, explaining over and over again, that it is real, and it can kill. More importantly, I stress that there are simple measures they can take to help contain the virus.
I explain how the virus is transmitted, what people can do to protect themselves and what steps they need to take if someone in the family becomes ill. I talk about the importance of hand washing, keeping a physical distance when leaving the house and when to wear a mask.
These are uncertain times, not only in Somalia, but around the world. We must all do what we can within our power to help stop the spread of Covid-19.