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Swedish Somalis at a higher risk of getting Covid-19

By Saada Hassan | May 11th 2020 at 11:36:15 GMT +0300

Sadad Dakhare (R) and his niece Safa Mohamed Hassan who fell ill with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but have now recovered pose in this photo taken April 22, 2020 in Oslo, Norway. [Photo:Courtesy]


At least 18 per cent of Covid-19 related deaths recorded in Sweden are from the Somali community.
According to HSToday, a media outlet in the US this minority population is comprised of immigrants who fled war and poverty and make up just 69 per cent of the population but sadly they are now accounting for an estimated 40 per cent of the death cases in Stockholm.

Sweden has so far recorded 26,322 cases and it became the world’s sensation for its decision to refuse to put a lockdown and instead focus on herd immunity.

Herd immunity means that a big percentage of the population is infected with the virus or an infectious agent. Because a proportion of the population is immune, the transmission of an agent or virus is going to slow or even stop completely since the virus runs out of hosts to infect.

The segregated cultures do not tune in to the mainstream media nor listen to the authorities messaging around the pandemic.

In an online research conducted by Othman A. Mahamud, a Somali who lives in Australia on Somali Facebook global diaspora and Somali communities to explore the possible explanations for this disturbing phenomenon, discovered various possible reasons why the minority community has many Covid-19 deaths.

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In a published report by Sweden Public Health Agency, it shows that Somali Swedes make up nearly 5 per cent of confirmed Covid-19 cases yet they make up just over half a percent of the national population.

25-year-old Swedish Somali Abdirahman Sayid thinks that it would be best if messages are interpreted and spread across local Somali radio and social media.

“Mostly, men are less informed, and they are those who do more socializing, meet in cafeterias, mosques, soccer fields, as well as those who are taxi and bus drivers,” says Sayid.

Sayid further adds, “They do not know the language and most of them are able to read in the Somali language only. The Somali person prefers to be told information, not to read information.”

Nur Abdi a 29 year old living among the large Somali diaspora in the United Kingdom, comments about economic factors saying, “Somalis live in large overcrowded housing units and most of them are likely to be out engaging on the doorstep.”

Nur is concerned about the health situation and lowered immune system among the aged in the community.
“People are living with three generations in the same house, since using a nursing home is not part of our culture. I have observed poor diet among many Somalis, possibly contributing to increased susceptibility to the virus,” says Nur.

Interestingly, “If someone only lives by his or herself, Somalis see that as someone who is actually crazy,” adds Nur.

In the US Somali refugee’s record higher rates of hypertension and diabetes according to the United States Centers for Disease Control with one center finding men having unexplained heart attacks at relatively young ages.

The biggest contributing factor and challenge to the situation is, around the world there are extremist Muslim religious leaders who have advised their followers to continue going on religious pilgrimages and to ignore health warnings from the authorities.

It is reported that the controversial Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr opposed the closing of the shrines in March during a period when Shia visit shrines in Iraq it also reported that Sheikh Ali al-Samawi promised believers they would not be infected by the virus under any circumstances while encouraging them to attend.

According to Per Brinkemo, a former journalist who has worked with a Somali community organization in the Rosengard suburb of Malmo, Sweden, there is a general unwillingness among Swedish authorities to consider how cultural differences impact people’s behaviors.

Brinkemo insists that, “Information needs to be not just directly translated but also conveyed in different ways to different groups.”

During his arranged public seminars at a community center, hardly anyone attended, despite written advertisements until he and his colleagues personally called people to invite them, after which the seminars were full.

“I was baffled, but my Somali colleagues weren’t surprised. They explained that they come from a society with a strong oral tradition, that they have little experience of interacting with public agencies in their home country, and tend to trust information that comes directly from a known source,” he said.

Brinkemo has observed that many in the immigrant communities have taken it upon themselves to spread the messages of social distancing and the recommendations issued by the authorities from Somali Swedish doctors posting informative videos on Facebook to local celebrities using their social media channels to talk about the pandemic.

Sweden is not the only country affected with high deaths of the minority population. In the UK, there were at least 3,378 deaths of black and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in hospitals in England up to 5 May according to the BBC.

As per the estimates, there have been 36 coronavirus related deaths for every 100,000 white people while 33 per cent deaths per 100, 000 for the Asian people.

So far there is no conclusive evidence that ascertains cause of the deaths among the minority groups but according to the Institute for Fiscal studies (IFS), some are more likely to have certain underlying health conditions.
Black people are more likely to be overweight than white people making the blacks and Asians at a higher risk of diabetes and hearts disease, according to the IFS.

Nearly three quarters of National Health Science (NHS), staff who have died from Covid-19 are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds according to the daily mail.

As per the report, BAME people are more likely to live in densely populated areas making social distancing harder.
The British Medical Association (BMA) also suggests that BAME doctors report higher numbers and levels of harassment and bullying in the work spaces as well as they may feel less able to raise concerns about inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Asian households are also reported to contain three or even four generations of one family increasing the risk of inter-generational infection and it is especially dangerous for elderly relatives.


Covid-19 deaths Sweden Somali Herd immunity
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