Since UNHCR’s COVID-19 response began in Southern Africa in March 2020
2.7 million people reached with COVID19 risk communication
53,948 people received cash assistance as a result of COVID-19
3,053 health staff and community health workers trained on COVID-19
8,527,325 people of concern to UNHCR in Southern Africa, including
767,357 refugees and 311,744 asylumseekers
6,196,561 internally displaced persons (IDPs)
1,190,506 IDP returnees and 24,530 refugee returnees
36,627 other people of concern
As of 30 November 2020, there have been 925,434 reported confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa. While positive cases continue to be identified, the rate has, in most cases, slowed significantly as compared to recent months. However, the risk of a COVID-19 resurgence remains high with reports in some countries, for example South Africa, of an increasing rate of daily reported cases. While governments across the region have eased restrictions that were put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 – such as lockdowns, movement restrictions, international border closures, suspension of schooling, and restrictions on shops and other businesses – the risk of resurgence presents a possibility of restrictions being reinstated or new ones being introduced. This would have renewed impact for people of concern – refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced people (IDPs) and stateless people – as well as for host communities. UNHCR is closely monitoring these developments in cooperation with governments and health partners and is streamlining COVID-19 preparedness into 2021 planning.
UNHCR continues working closely with governments, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to secure the inclusion of people of concern into preparedness and response measures for COVID-19. Given the serious impacts that COVID-19 regulations have had on livelihoods and economic opportunities, including people of concern into social safety nets and other social assistance programmes is particularly important.
UNHCR and partners have committed to a ‘stay and deliver’ approach, continuing to provide protection services and other forms of life-saving assistance. Programmes have been adapted to observe social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures, health protocols are in place at registration and distribution points, and hotlines and community protection structures are utilized to support case management. Since the beginning of the response to COVID-19 in March 2020, UNHCR has focused heavily on risk communication and outreach efforts to spread information about COVID-19 prevention and services. Health systems strengthening has been a priority, by equipping health centres and training health workers, and establishing isolation and quarantine centres to reduce the risk of transmission, particularly in camps. Additional handwashing facilities have been installed and additional soap has been distributed to promote good hygiene practices and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. UNHCR has also been providing cash assistance and core relief items (CRIs) to those worst impacted by lockdowns and other restrictions, while children and youth have been supported with virtual and distance learning to continue with their studies.