Covid-19 has affected every human on the planet – no matter their ethnicity, colour, age, or status. And the Somali community living in the UK is among the Black and Asian Minority Ethnicity (BAME) groups that have been identified as among the hardest hit communities by coronavirus, with lockdown only exacerbating their situation.
Although we have no statistics for the number of Somalis who have died in the UK, verbal community information suggests that many of us have lost dear friends and relatives to the deadly virus.
During the lockdown, a few Somali community leaders in Bristol took the initiative to rise to the challenges and organised a virtual meeting to discuss about the impact of Covid-19 and how members of the community can be helped, especially some of the most vulnerable who were not able to do their own shopping and other essential activities such as collecting medicines.
Following this, our city’s Somali community has established a task force and a WhatsApp group to engage community activists – as well as online platforms to help families, elders and shielding people.
They distributed food and medicines for the elders, and families who were not able to go outside due to the pandemic. They especially aimed to support those who were marked as high-risk or extremely vulnerable by the NHS.
Apart from the local Somali organisations who had received funds from the government and other charity organisations, I am aware there were contributions made by community individuals to support ongoing activities to help vulnerable members of the Somali community.
In addition to that, there are many people who as volunteers are doing fantastic work for the community and sharing up-to-date information from the government, in formats that people are able to understand, translating key information on current guidelines.
Moreover, the volunteer groups organised by community leaders started running hotlines to communicate with members of vulnerable groups to check on their situation and their wellbeing.
There are also many families who have suffered from job losses, with debts mounting every week, and who can least afford to bear the full effects of the pandemic and economic downturn.
Those who have lost their jobs had some help from government schemes and they have also received crucial moral and practical support from those in the community who were distributing food and other essentials.
What we, as Bristol’s Somali community, have learnt from the pandemic and this difficult time, is that it has strengthened the cohesion within our community, highlighted community resilience and promoted the value of Somali culture which prioritises interdependence and helping our elders, children and the most vulnerable members of the community.
Khalid Jama Ahmed is editor in chief of KOBCIYE Magazine