Since UNHCR’s COVID-19 response began in Southern Africa in March 2020:
2.8 million people reached through COVID-19 risk communication
133,111 people reached with COVID-19 messaging specifically on gender-based violence
3,242 community health workers and health facility staff trained on COVID-19
7,483,538 people of concern to UNHCR in Southern Africa, including
743,412 refugees and 329,875 asylum-seekers
6,373,501 internally displaced persons (IDPs)
36,750 other people of concern
As of 04 May 2021, the region is reporting 2,062,106 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa. This includes 86,229 new cases in April, a four percent increase over the previous month. Regionally, there has been a 15 per cent decrease in the number of active cases. Restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been eased in many countries, with borders reopening and travel restrictions being lifted. However, basic measures such as mask-wearing, limits on social gatherings and curfews remain in place in much of the region.
UNHCR and partners have maintained protection services and other life-saving assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mitigation measures are in place at registration and distribution points, and hotlines and community structures support protection case management. UNHCR continues to focus on risk communication and awareness-raising to increase understanding about COVID-19, encourage compliance with prevention measures, and inform about available services. Health systems strengthening continues to be a priority, equipping health centres, training health workers, and establishing isolation and quarantine centres. Additional handwashing facilities continue to be installed and maintained, and additional soap continues to be distributed. UNHCR is also providing cash assistance and core relief items (CRIs) to those worst impacted by COVID-19 and related restrictions. Where schools have been closed, children and youth have been supported with virtual and distance learning, and as schools re-open they have been supported to implement COVID-19 preventive measures.
UNHCR is working closely with governments, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to secure the inclusion of people of concern to UNHCR – refugees, asylumseekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and stateless persons – into preparedness and response measures for COVID-19. Given the impacts on livelihoods and economic opportunities, UNHCR advocates for people of concern to UNHCR to be included into social safety nets and other social assistance programmes for COVID-19. Importantly, countries in the region including Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have started rolling out COVID-19 vaccination programmes with stocks acquired through COVAX, as well as contributions from other countries and direct acquisition from manufacturers. UNHCR Representations across the region have actively engaged with government ministries to ensure that people of concern are included in national vaccine plans, and in some cases, such as in the DRC and Malawi, UNHCR is part of national task forces and working groups developing vaccine roll-out plans and strategies.