COVID-19 effects erode economic gains in Somalia: study


The effects of COVID-19 have erased economic gains made since the drought of 2017 and will be felt in Somalia for years to come, says a report launched Wednesday by Somalia’s Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development (MoPIED) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from the Government of Japan.

The report, which analyses the findings of over 20 previous assessments completed in 2020, is the most comprehensive picture to date of the economic damage from the pandemic and its effect on healthcare, education and social protection. It predicts that economic recovery will take at least two years and that social impacts are likely to last much longer, particularly for women, who faced existing inequalities in access to education, healthcare and formal employment.

The report notes that GDP is estimated to have slumped 1.5 per cent in 2020. Compared to pre-pandemic growth forecasts of 3.2 per cent growth in 2020, this suggests a loss of US$300 million. Overall exports have slumped by 37 per cent and by up to 50 per cent for livestock, devastating rural and nomadic communities for whom livestock exports are the main source of income.

In some areas, wages have dropped by more than 50 per cent and falling incomes have left many families struggling to access health and education services, which are largely provided by the private sector.

More than half of businesses have reduced staff levels and job losses will have particularly affected women, who are the main breadwinners for 74 per cent of Somali households and make up the majority of workers in trades like street-side selling that were decimated by lockdown.

Women bear the brunt

Women have also faced a rise in domestic violence, with around a third of women surveyed among internally displaced populations reporting an increase in gender-based violence (38 per cent) and FGM (31 per cent).

Reduced access to private healthcare and schooling wills worsen already alarming health and education indicators for women. In 2020, only 32 per cent of women had access to health facilities or delivered children with the assistance of a health professional and 68 per cent reported working or getting married while they were of school age. Overall, 1 in 22 women are expected to die due to pregnancy or childbirth difficulties.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations aimed at a swift, sustainable and equitable recovery. These include greater investments in healthcare infrastructure, including solar power for clinics that lack access to electricity (vital for vaccine cold chains), expansion in credit facilities for micro and small businesses to help them weather external shocks and an expansion in digital services to widen access and reduce costs.

Other recommendations in the report cover better protection for women by implementing the recommendations in the Women’s Charter (such as the 30 per cent quota for women MPs and improvements to legislation around sexual offences), investment in a green and circular economy and directing remittances into more productive assets, such as diaspora bonds.

“Somalia has so far avoided the catastrophic mortality rates seen in some other countries – largely thanks to swift and decisive government action – but we must also protect people from the economic fallout,” said Jocelyn Mason, UNDP Somalia’s Resident Representative. “In this pandemic, we have seen that a global economic downturn is just one more external shock – like locusts, floods and droughts – to which Somalia is vulnerable. But we have also seen the resilience of the Somali people and we are determined to help the government build back better and greener while leaving no one behind.”

A further update to the report will be released in the second quarter of 2021. The access the full report click here.