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More Somalis are dying of Covid-19 in Europe. But why?



NAIROBI—Somalis in Europe are reportedly dying in large numbers of Coronavirus.

In Sweden there is a small diaspora community of Somali immigrants who fled war and poverty. They make up a considerable number of the early immigrants.

“Normally, this diaspora group fades into the background, but now, suddenly, a chilling new statistic brings them to the fore, as 40 percent of the reported COVID-19 related deaths occurring in Stockholm involve the Somali diaspora communities. Other Swedish medical experts estimate 18 percent of the COVID-19 deaths country-wide are from the Somali community,” said Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE).

Although there’s no official figure, it’s beloved that over 30 Somali victims died of Covid-19.

The shocking revelation came to light when seven men died of the virus in Stockholm in Sweden late last month. The shocking news caused massive uproar on social media, starting a wave of awareness within the Somali community in Europe.

The awareness was not as powerful until last week when two prominent Somalis died in London, dawning on the community that the virus is actually as serious as medics and government officials put it.

Somalia’s former Prime Minister Nur Hussein Hassan speaks during the opening ceremony of peace talks between Somalia’s opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) and the government in Djibouti, Jan. 25, 2009. (VOA)

Earlier this week, former Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein died of coronavirus at a London hospital. Nur Adde was prime minister between November 2007 and February 2009.

Also who died of the virus is the internationally-renowned oud player, Ahmed Ismail Hussein, known as Hudeydi, has died in London at the age of 92. Reports indicate he died from Covid-19 after four days in hospital.


45-year-old Ahmed Farah from Stockholm blames the community for failing to heed health warnings as well as misinformation from religious scholars,

“Somalis are stubborn people who do not listen to the messages of health and institutions of health and government institutions. They also listen to wrong information with extremist ideas from religion scholars. This is not a people who read and learn about health awareness and who are careful. Somalis are not the ones who take what is going to be taken as history and learn from it,” he said.

31-year-old Abdulahi Said, who is part of the Somali diaspora in Melbourne, Australia, jumped into the conversation astutely suggesting that the winter cold in Scandinavia likely causes too many Somalis to crowd indoors together:

“Somalis have their own restaurants. They kill time there. They play cards, and pool, and hands are exchanged. In addition, Somalis are not afraid from disease. This is not braveness; it is stupidity, since they have been told that the disease transmits through physical contact and sitting close to each other.

“Most of those people who got affected by COVID-19 mostly were unemployed and are now trapped in the queue of death,” he said.

“While stubborn unwillingness to heed health advice is certainly cause for concern, not being informed and aware of health advice is also consequential,” noted Anne an associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Section of the victims who succumbed to the disease reported disregarded the warning from the public health officials. In the case of Stockholm death of the seven Somalis, all the victims were tenants in the same flat.

Asked why Somalis in Europe are considered “high risk are high risk community in Sweden, Mustaf Salah said mostly are blinded by unsubstantiated religious teachings and misleading statements from sheikhs that were later boldly challenged.

“Many people said that this disease is only meant to kill for non-Muslims thus, it cannot affect Muslims. Until today many people believe that myth. I’ve watched shows from Somali National TV televised where the reporter asked people playing and socialising at Lido beach in Mogadishu [Somalia] if they are unaware of corona virus. So many of those people answered, ‘We are Muslims! This disease will only kill non-believers.’ But they are wrong. If you are not careful COVID-19 will not differentiate between anyone based on their religion,” he recollected.

25-year-old Somali Swedish Abdirahman Sayid, who is university educated, refers to the widespread Islamic belief in God-ordained fate:

“In my view, the reason why they did not take the government’s advice was that they intuitively listen to Somali clerics when it comes this intense wide spread of sickness and they say, ‘What is meant to happen to my health, it’s already ordained by Allah.’ But, the Quran never said, ‘Don’t look after yourself.’ They are misinterpreting the Quran.”

Abdirahman goes on to state, “A man we used to pray together with at the mosque called me and told me that the mosque is still open and that the café in the mosque is still working as well!!! It was amazing!”

A doctor and a nurse prepare a ward for COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo by: REUTERS / Feisal Omar

Back in Somalia, the humanitarian organizations are worried that enough is not being done to arrests the undetected spread of the Covid-19 despite recording one death related to the illness.

According to the Somalis Red Crescent, it noted that the country is at a critical juncture where immediate action can still curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it is deeply concerned about the impact that the virus could have on communities weakened by violence and conflict, where displacement, malnutrition, and outbreaks of disease are already widespread.

“Somalia is at a crossroads, where we can rapidly scale up to get information and resources out to communities and health care facilities against COVID-19, or move too slowly and never catch up,” said Juerg Eglin, the ICRC’s head of delegation for Somalia. “Speed is critical, and we are working with our colleagues at the Somali Red Crescent to fight COVID-19 from fully taking hold,” Crescent said in statement.

Earlier this week, Somalia’s Federal Health Minister, Dr Fawzia Abikar Nur, on Wednesday night confirmed the country’s first death due to the coronavirus and announced four more confirmed cases, raising the number to 12.

In a statement, Dr Nur said the person who died in Mogadishu was a 58 year-old citizen who had never left the country.

The ministry had announced the person’s test results on Tuesday, saying he was the country’s eighth patient.

It also reported that one person had recovered and asked the public to be vigilant and adhere to the ministry’s guidelines on fighting the Covid-19 disease.


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