Sweden’s Somali community is being hit particularly hard by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with at least 6 of the 15 victims who have died of the disease so far in Sweden being of Somali background.
Somalis in Sweden are complaining that they received information from the authorities too late to act on it, and that the material was inadequate. Most of the warnings were only distributed in Swedish and English. The government is now issuing updated information in 15 other languages besides Swedish. The Swedish national television network, SVT, as well as several Swedish newspapers are beginning to add Arabic translations to their dispatches in an effort to disseminate information to immigrants more effectively.
Arabic is currently the second-most spoken language in Sweden, even surpassing Finnish since the beginning of the migrant crisis in 2015.
Mohamed Nuur, the Chairman of the Social Democratic party in Tensta, has blasted the government for not doing more to get information about the disease to non-Swedish speakers, according to a report by Expressen. “No one should risk losing their life due to lack of information or failure to master the language of the majority,” he told Expressen.
The Swedish Somali Medical Association says that areas where many immigrants live, such as Järva, are seeing a disparate number of cases of coronavirus in comparison to the general population, according to a report by SVT.
Jihan Mohamed, a doctor with the Swedish Somali Medical Association, says that there are unconfirmed indications that the virus may have spread among the Somali population during Friday prayers at mosques. She also noted that Somalis frequently live in overcrowded apartments, and that Somali culture stresses the need for social contact, especially when someone is ill, which may have further aided its spread.
“We’re all in the same boat,” Dr. Mohamed told Expressen regarding the crisis. “All healthcare professionals are working and struggling with everything they have in intensive care and other departments. We have to help with what we can to give everyone the information they need so that they can do what’s necessary to stop the infection.”
It has been estimated that Sweden is currently home to approximately 60,000 Somali immigrants. Rinkeby, a Stockholm suburb, has been dubbed “little Mogadishu” due to its high number of Somalis.