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UNHCR West & Central Africa COVID-19 Emergency Response, 22 July 2020

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Situation Report
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The West and Central Africa region has seen a 41% percent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past three weeks with a total of 141,891 contamination as of 20 July compared to 100,549 on 29 June 2020.

UNHCR is supporting the reopening of schools in the region through cleaning and disinfection of classes, provision of protective equipment, and reinforced sensitization of teachers and students.

The rainy season started across the region creating additional challenges to access, provide assistance to persons of concern and implement basic preventive measures against COVID-19 in hosting areas.

Operational Context

  • Continuous increase of confirmed cases. The West and Central Africa region has seen a 41% percent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past three weeks with a total of 141,891 contamination as of 20 July compared to 100,549 on 29 June 2020. Nigeria (37,225) remains with the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Ghana (28,989), Cameroon (16,157) and Cote d’Ivoire (14,312). In terms of active cases, Nigeria (21,091) has the highest number, followed by Cote d’Ivoire (5,561), Ghana (3,505) and CAR (3,093). The exact number of COVID-19 cases in the region remains uncertain, particularly given the low levels of testing in the region. Death tolls are also unreliable as they may exclude people who did not die in a hospital, or who died before they could be tested.

  • Confirmed cases among persons of concern. So far, 16 persons of concern to UNHCR were tested positive (four refugees in Cameroon, one refugee in Ghana and one refugee in Guinea and seven IDPs in Central African Republic and seven IDPs in Mali). Two of the refugees, living out of camp, died in Cameroon.

  • Impact of COVID-19 in West and Central Africa. In West and Central Africa, the COVID-19 has put already fragile national health systems and economies under increased pressure, adding to pre-exiting challenges linked to conflict and political tensions in several parts of the region. Refugees and IDPs are particularly affected by this pandemic. Often residing in overcrowded and precarious conditions rendering impossible social distancing or basic preventive measures such as handwashing they are exposed to heightened risks of contamination. Governments have adopted measures to curb the spread of the virus including closing borders, imposing travel bans, prohibiting mass gatherings, shutting down schools, and closing markets. These restrictions had a dire impact on local economies and increased the risk of food insecurity in the region, particularly in the Sahel. With their livelihoods severely disrupted, many displaced family’s resort to negative coping mechanisms, including child labour. There are also great concerns regarding gender-based violence which is on the rise since the beginning of the COVID crisis as a direct result of the preventive measures enforced and the economic strain these restrictions have put on many households. In an effort to mitigate the negative socio-economic impact of the pandemic, many countries in the region are have started to relax restrictions despite the risk of a second wave of contamination.