Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

Amnesty: Debt relief can transform health care crisis in Somalia

Published on: 18 August, 2021
A patient in Martini hospital, Mogadishu, 24 February 2021 [AP/Farah Abdi Warsameh]

A patient in Martini hospital, Mogadishu, 24 February 2021 [AP/Farah Abdi Warsameh]

On Wednesday Amnesty International released a new report on the current healthcare crisis in Somalia.

The report, “We Just Watched Covid-19 Patients Die” – Covid-19 Exposed Somalia’s Weak Healthcare System But Debt Relief Can Transform It, highlights the pre-existing weaknesses that existed in Somalia’s healthcare system.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa said: ‘The Somalia government’s response to the pandemic was wholly inadequate – characterized by a dire lack of ventilators, severe shortages of oxygen and almost non-existent access to ambulance services, all of which are the result of years of neglect and failure to invest in healthcare.’

The report discusses the healthcare crisis against the backdrop of the economic crisis in Somalia and the fact that it is one of the most heavily indebted countries worldwide. Amnesty also considered the political situation including the weak central government and prolonged conflict.


‘Tip of the iceberg’

According to official figures, there have been 15,294 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Somalia, and 798 confirmed deaths, but the actual figures are likely to be much higher given the limited testing capacity, and weaknesses in the reporting and registration of deaths.

Somalia’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mohamed Mohamud Ali, told Amnesty International that he believes the death toll from Covid-19 is far higher than estimated. “Testing was very limited. Only those who managed to get to health facilities and were tested are included in the official government data. The figure is just a tip of the iceberg, many more were infected and died at home.’

Somalia is faced with a shortage of vaccines, giving it little fighting chance against the continued spread of Covid-19. By early August, only 0.6 percent of the population was fully vaccinated.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Muchena attributes the low rate of vaccination to ‘poor infrastructure , lack of information and budgetary allocation that has fallen far short of the Abuja treaty requirements as well as lethargy relating to testing and vaccination. He says : ‘the report amplifies this pre-existing set of systemic and structural challenges that African countries have faced at the onset of Covid 19.’

Muchena adds: ‘We are calling on Somalia to use the new fiscal space they are in as a result of debt relief, to use the proceeds of this relief to invest in healthcare.’