(ERGO) – Doctors in the southern Somali border town of Beled-hawo are concerned about rising numbers of Coronavirus cases, with reports of some deaths in the district.
The head of the district health department, Dr Ahmed Addow Madey, told Radio Ergo that COVID19 emerged again in the town during the second half of November. People showing symptoms of the disease were unwilling to visit hospitals or designated centres run by the Ministry of Health’s Disease Control Unit.
“This second wave, which is devastating the world over, is also having an effect in our town and we suspect it to have spread to us from the side of Kenya, which has been hit much worse than during the first wave. This worries us because we do not have the necessary measures to curb the further spread of the virus in the town and its environs,” Dr Ahmed said.
The authorities reported that a 70-year-old man died after testing positive for COVID19 whilst in a private hospital, where a district health team visited him to take a sample. The patient also suffered from high blood pressure. The team advised the family to take him to the quarantine centre but they refused and took him home, where he died two weeks later on 23 November.
According to Dr Addow, the health department has been called to conduct tests on a number of people in local health centres in the last few weeks. They found four new positive cases (one female, three males) between 5-9 December, and five positive cases out of 16 tests taken over the two previous weeks.
None of these cases was admitted to the quarantine centre. Sick people are usually brought to health centres in town by their relatives when their condition has deteriorated and they cannot be treated at home.
However, the health teams do not operate in the villages outside Beled-hawo, where many people have been reporting illnesses with flu-like symptoms, fever and loss of smell.
Local resident Mohamed Adan Ali, 31, told Radio Ergo’s reporter that both his parents died after being ill with Coronavirus-like symptoms at their home in Dalsan-dawa, seven kilometres outside Beled Hawo.
“They were coughing a lot and had difficulties breathing. They had pre-existing conditions like blood pressure and diabetes. I took them to hospital and did everything I could for them, then I brought them back home and just prayed for their recovery, but a while later they died,” Mohamed said.
Mohamed’s mother, who used to go to town selling milk from the family’s 12 goats, died on 14 November. His father, who found casual work in town on construction sites, died on 25 November. Neither parent was tested for COVID19 at the private hospital.
According to Mohamed, there are a number of people in his village, mainly elderly, who are ill with similar symptoms to his parents but are not seeking medical assistance.
“People are scared of the hospitals because they fear being injected with needles that they think might carry the Corona virus itself. They also say the hospitals are too crowded and full of ill people with the flu, colds and other diseases that they don’t want to catch,” Mohamed said.
When the first case of COVID19 was reported in this district of Gedo region in May, youth volunteers rallied to organise public awareness activities. Many people self-isolated when they suspected having contracted the virus.
However, this time seems to be different. People are still meeting in large numbers, greeting each other in the normal ways, and ignoring preventive measures like wearing a mask or keeping a distance. Most people were unwilling to talk to Radio Ergo’s reporter.
Dr Ahmed Addow is worried that the COVID19 supplies supplied by the health ministry in June have run out.
‘‘Is the district ready to deal with the disease? No, I don’t think so. We don’t have the necessary equipment or supplies to treat the patients who are ill with the virus, and we don’t have PPE gear in the district. We received some during the first wave, but we ran out.
More importantly, it’s better to prevent the virus than to treat it, so the best thing that can be done is to educate the public. That is what we need most in this district,” the doctor stated.
The town has one testing centre and three oxygen tanks at its quarantine facility.