The coronavirus poses enormous challenges for Somalia, where the humanitarian situation is already dire, said the top UN envoy for the country on Thursday.

Somalia, like the rest of the world, is focused on confronting COVID-19.

There are more than 1,500 recorded cases although the actual figures are almost certainly much higher, said James Swan, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Somalia.

The consequences for Somalia are acute given the already dire humanitarian situation in the country, he warned.

Even before COVID-19, more than 5 million Somalis required humanitarian assistance. The 2.6 million internally displaced persons are particularly at risk.

Nearly 1 million Somalis are now affected by flooding. And the country also faces its worst desert locust infestation in some 25 years, he told the Security Council in a briefing.

In addition to the medical and humanitarian effects, COVID-19 is also having a severely negative economic impact on Somalia.

Revenue generation and remittances from the diaspora have dwindled. The federal government projects an 11 percent decline in nominal GDP for 2020, said Swan.

The federal government and federal member states have responded quickly to the crisis within their means. A national COVID task force was established in early March. Federal member states have created similar structures and also participate in national-level coordination.

The UN family is working to reinforce the government’s response. UN agencies have re-oriented their activities to give priority to COVID-19, he said.