Entries to UNDP’s COVID-19 video competition came from all over Somalia. We asked the winners how the virus has affected them. Together, they provide three very different windows into the lives of ordinary Somalis under lockdown.

Abdijabar Dahir, schoolboy from Qardho

Just a day after Somalia recorded its first coronavirus case on 16th March, the government shut down schools as one of several measures to slow the spread of the virus.

“The announcement and curfew felt like a prison sentence,” says Abdijabar Dahir, 11, who lives in Qardho, Puntland. “It was like we were put under house arrest because we were not allowed to go out at all.”

Many children in the neighbourhood continued to play together outside, but Dahir and his family had to stay at home to protect their elderly grandmother from the disease.

Abjibabar and his elder sister, Saynab, came up with an innovative way to deal with the situation: they improvised a school and a playground within their own compound.

“It was not easy at the beginning,” says Saynab. “The days were long and boring so we had to be creative and use our energy and time to learn more about COVID-19 and how to protect ourselves.”

For them, the timing of the launch of UNDP’s Somali-language COVID-19 video competition couldn’t have been better. Working together, they managed to produce a delightful video showing some of the best ways to avoid infection and also teaching people how to make homemade facemasks.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Abdijabar. “I had never stayed indoors for this long in my life but now I’m used to it. We do everything in the house including home-schooling, studying the Quran and playing football as a family in the compound.”

Their unique story of how they turned their lockdown ordeal into an educational and enjoyable time at home earned them the $1,000 first prize, beating more than 20 entries from across the country.

“I still can’t believe we won the competition,” said Dahir. “We received a lot of positive feedback from the community and we are proud to take part in the national fight against coronavirus. Inshallah we will soon go back to school and resume our normal lives.”

Mohamed Hassan, local activist in Mogadishu

For people living with disabilities in Somalia, life has never been easy, even before the pandemic. Almost no public places offer any kind of disabled access and discrimination is widespread. So the new challenges posed by COVID-19 just worsened an already difficult situation.

“Very few public places are fully accessible in our country, so disabled people are dependent on others for their day-to-day activities,” says Mohamed Hassan, a local activist in Mogadishu whose film on how the virus disproportionately affects disabled people won third prize in UNDP’s competition.

“Disabled students do not have the equipment they need to study online or keep up with the latest COVID-19 information, so they miss out on important public health messages.

“This should be a wake-up call for the government and everyone in a position of authority to make sure they put across inclusive policies that will make the lives of disabled people easier.”

Hassan Madar, journalist in Galka’ayo

For journalists like Hassan Madar, who is based in Galka’ayo, covering the pandemic has been a daunting task. He’s been at the forefront of reporting on the crisis while at the same time trying to protect himself and his loved ones from the disease.

To highlight the importance of social distancing, Madar and his colleagues produced a film about a couple who cancelled their wedding to protect their family and friends from infection. They won second prize in UNDPs’ competition.

Madar says is frustrated that people are not taking the disease more seriously: “We engage our listeners on a daily basis and most of the questions they ask are about coronavirus. But when you go out in the market, people behave as though they have never heard of it, so we have to continue reminding them until they change their behaviour.”

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