CBS and Nyss in Somalia

Early detection and early response to Covid-19

As a part of an emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic, ICRC and SRCS started a community-based surveillance project using Nyss.

In Somalia, the access to health care is poor, and long term conflict has further deteriorated the health system’s ability to detect and respond to outbreaks. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) works with the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) to help the victims of conflict and natural disaster, providing emergency assistance and supporting the health care system.  

In June 2020, ICRC and SRCS started a CBS project using Nyss as part of their emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This Covid-19 CBS project links into their existing contract tracing activities, and forms part of the larger work to limit community transmission of the virus and supporting the health care system in Somalia. As the Covid-19 pandemic spread to Somalia, the country was hit by large floods following heavy rains. In order to respond to this double threat, ICRC and SRCS quickly adapted their Covid-19 CBS response to include reporting on diarrhoeal diseases. In some camp settings, they have also included reporting on potential measles and unusual events.  

Currently, over 100 volunteers spread in nearly all regions of the country, are reporting in real time by sending an SMS to Nyss when they witness a health risk. When a pre-established threshold of reports is reached, Nyss automatically alerts health authorities and key ICRC staff. With this early warning, they can rapidly initiate a response and adapt their community activities to limit the spread. Meanwhile, the volunteers can initiate health promotion messages in the affected community.

Within the first two weeks of the CBS project, 63 alerts had been escalated to the Ministry of Health and ICRC for response.  

In countries like Somalia, where the surveillance capacities of the health care system is challenged by unrest and limited infrastructure and access, providing early warning tools at community level is key to stopping the spread of disease. Without CBS, potential cases could go undetected.