Accurate and timely information saving lives

COVID-19 Call centre - the lifeline for staying safe

UNICEF Somalia
06 April 2021

“I started this job nine months ago and have been trained to answer phones, take care of people in difficult situations, and collect data of people we suspect have been infected by COVID-19,” says Abdirashid Ali Wehliye. He is one of the call agents working at the COVID-19 call centre which operates in shifts, seven days a week.


The call centre is based in the capital, Mogadishu. It provides callers accurate information on how to prevent the spread of virus, how to treat symptoms and when to seek medical care. It employs motivated volunteers, services people across the country and is a lifeline for many people trying to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19.


“When I interview a patient, I ask about his or her general condition, where he or she is, how old he or she is, and whether he or she is currently breathing well. If the caller has shortness of breath, I will send an ambulance over immediately,” explains Abdullah Mohamed Warsame, a colleague of Abdirashid.


“I encounter all types of phone calls and provide health advice to anyone I think might have COVID,” chimes in Maryan Ahmed Mohamed.


“The most frequently asked questions are about the symptoms of the virus,” says Ahmed Ibrahim Abdi. “Many people also ask about medication they could take to treat the virus. We talk to the callers about the prevention measures they can take as well as the ways they can build their immune system,” he notes.


“We operate the call centre 24 hours a day. The staff is highly trained and works day and night,” says Abdinasir Ibrahim Mo’allim. He is part of the administrative staff, running the centre. “We get 15,000-18,000 calls a day and approximately 5,000-8000 people have been given health advice on COVID-19,” he explains.

Callers with severe symptoms are referred to the De Martini and Simameyt hospitals in Mogadishu.


“I have given thousands of people the advice to stay at home. I have always also kept in touch with the ones in severe condition and made sure we’ve sent an ambulance immediately when needed,” Abdinisar continues. “The advice we provide reduces the number of people just turning up at the hospitals,” he notes.


The services are provided free of charge, by the Federal Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and other partners, and they extend across the country.


UNICEF provides financial support for staffing the centre as well as key messaging and guidance for providing timely and accurate information for the callers. The support builds on UNICEF’s years of experience in providing simple, effective, and accurate information to build public knowledge, awareness, and confidence. The generous funding from USAID has made this critical support possible.