Since the beginning of UNHCR’s COVID-19 response in Southern Africa
2.2 million people reached through COVID-19 risk communication
1,885 health staff participating in COVID-19 training
7,957 children and youth supported with distance and homebased learning
9,465,415 people of concern to UNHCR in Southern Africa, including
770,347 refugees and 311,778 asylumseekers
6,385,489 internally displaced persons (IDPs)
1,938,223 IDP returnees and 23,248 refugee returnees
36,330 other people of concern
(as of 19 August 2020)
As of 18 August 2020, there are a reported 653,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa. This represents a 15 per cent increase in cases over a two-week period. 90 per cent of all reported cases in the region are in South Africa, which is 5th highest in the world in terms of COVID-19 cases. Governments across the region continue to take precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus, though many of the stricter measures, such as lockdowns, movement restrictions, and closure of borders, schools and shops, have been gradually eased in recent weeks. However, as case numbers have started to rise again in some countries, such as in Botswana, the Republic of the Congo (ROC) and South Africa, restrictions are being re-introduced to curb the upward trend.
Months of COVID-19 restrictions have had severe economic impacts on vulnerable populations, including refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people (IDPs). Lost income as a result of limitations on movement and economic activity has meant that the number of people requesting assistance from UNHCR has increased significantly, notably among those who had previously been self-sufficient, as they now struggle to put food on the table, pay rent, or cover the cost of utilities. At the same time, reports of rising xenophobia and stigmatization of refugees has been noted in the region, impacting on the physical safety of people of concern as well as social cohesion and peaceful coexistence with local communities. This is not limited to health stigmatization, but also linked to the increasing economic pressures in refugee-hosting areas amidst the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions.
UNHCR is working with governments, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies and NGOs to secure the inclusion of people of concern – refugees, IDPs, stateless people and other marginalized communities – in preparedness and response measures for COVID-19. UNHCR and partners have committed to a ‘stay and deliver’ approach, continuing to provide critical services and assistance while adopting social distancing and other COVID19 mitigation measures. This includes implementation of health protocols at distribution points, the use of hotlines to report protection issues and assistance needs, and support to virtual and distance learning. UNHCR has also been expanding its outreach efforts in the region with the support of partners and community volunteers to spread the message among persons of concern and their host communities about COVID-19 prevention and services.