The East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes (EHAGL) region is host to some 4.82 million refugees and asylum-seekers, the majority from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, with significant numbers from Burundi, Sudan, and Eritrea. The region hosts 67 per cent of the refugees on the African continent and 20 per cent of the global refugee population. The region also has approximately 10.57 million IDPs, mostly in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Burundi, due to both conflict and natural disasters.
The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to adversely affect the livelihoods, health and wellbeing of Persons of Concern and host communities in the region, the majority of whom live in camps and settlements. As of 30 September, there were 7,702 confirmed COVID-19 cases among PoCs in the 11 countries in the EHAGL region. A total of 17,504 refugees in the region have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Of these, 6,407 (37%) refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda are fully vaccinated. Refugees, IDPs and their host communities remain impacted by the economic and social effects of the pandemic and at risk of contracting the virus. Most countries have seen multiple waves of COVID-19 and the need for preparedness remains critical as several locations still lack adequate quarantine, testing and isolation/treatment facilities.
Governments have put in place various measures to contain the spread of the virus and are periodically announcing changes to movement restrictions and other preventive measures. Apart from Eritrea, all other countries in the region have ongoing vaccination campaigns, although vaccine shortages continue to pose a challenge.
Uganda remains the only country in the region to have not reopened its schools since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. On 22 September, Uganda’s President, in a public address, announced that post-secondary education institutions will reopen from 1 November on condition that all teachers and non-teaching staff are vaccinated. The rest of the learning institutions will reopen in January 2022.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the region is plagued by multiple crises. Funding shortfalls have resulted in major reductions of food assistance for over 3.3 million refugees (or 72 per cent of refugees in the region) in Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. This remains a critical issue in the region as refugees are largely dependent on food assistance to meet their basic food and nutritional needs. Many have resorted to a range of coping mechanisms with negative protection impacts, such as child marriage.