148,981 as of 30 April 2020 PERSONS OF CONCERN in the Afar and Tigray region
9,463 NEW ARRIVALS in the first quarter of 2020
32.86% as of April 2020 OF THE NEW ARRIVALS ARE Children
New Arrivals – In the first quarter of 2020, 9,463 new asylum seekers from Eritrea have sought refuge in Ethiopia, placing a significant strain on registration and reception conditions in Endabaguna, Berhale and Aysaita, and increasing the already dire shelter shortages within the existing camps. With an average of over 3,000 new refugees arriving every month, available resources are prioritized to cover immediate basic needs and prevention of COVID-19 pandemic.
With limited resources and health infrastructure to contain COVID-19, resources have been redirected to support the efforts of the government of Ethiopia in the health sector and to ensure that refugees are included in national and regional plans. At present, WASH and Health sectors are prioritized while gaps remain across all sectors. By the end of April 2020, the registered population under Sub-Office Shire’s area of operation stands at 148,981 persons. This includes 94,145 refugees in the four camps in Tigray, and 53,703 refugees in the two camps and settlements within the host communities in Afar, and 1,133 out of camp refugees.
On 24 March 2020, the Ethiopian authorities have closed all border crossings into the country to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. ARRA has suspended asylum seekers reception and screening activities at the border, and registration activities in Afar and at Endabaguna centre in Tigray are also suspended.
COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Ethiopia on March 13, UNHCR amplified measures to curtail the impact of the pandemic on the Persons of Concern (PoC) to UNHCR. The COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan and mapping of camps’ specific preparedness activities for worst case scenario were finalized jointly with the government counterpart ARRA and humanitarian partners. Awareness raising campaigns are well underway in all the six camps through home to home visits, mini media and use of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials. Teams comprised of a total of 338 community/incentive workers, health promotors and members of the refugee structures across all camps are disseminating WHO recommended messages on COVID-19 prevention to refugees. To date the Sub-Office Shire has printed and dispatched to field a total of 6,160 IEC materials translated into local languages (6,000 broachers and 160 large flex banners).
WASH facilities are reinforced at camp level through establishment of hand washing facilities at points of delivery, pertinent locations in camps and at household level. A total of 131 communal/shared and 1,658 household hand washing facilities have been established across the six camps. In order to further strengthened hygiene practices among the PoC, UNHCR has doubled the quantity of soap (from 250gm to 500gm) for distribution to refugees along with increase in water supply to camps. UNHCR and partners modified delivery of assistance to maintain continuation of essential services and humanitarian assistance to refugees in the pandemic situation. Distribution of two months food ration (April and May) was conducted with COVID-19 preventive measures in place at the distribution points. Distribution of sanitary material (three months entitlement) also went along with food distribution. UNHCR in collaboration with Regional Health Bureau conducted COVID-19 related trainings for camp-based health staff. Procurement of medical equipment and supplies initiated to upgrade camp-based isolation centers.
The lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene materials for frontline staff of partners providing protection and assistance remains a major concern and hiccup in the COVID19 response. UNHCR has placed an order for international procurement of drugs, hygiene items and PPE especially for health centers. In the items when these items are in the pipeline, SO Shire has initiated local procurement of these items to serve partner staff for two months.