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UNHCR Ethiopia COVID-19 and Operational Update 06 November 2020

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COVID-19 Operational Context

As of 05 November 2020, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) reported 98,391coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and 1,508 fatalities in the country. More than 1.5 million samples were collected and tested throughout the country to date.
Following the Government’s announcement and guidelines for a phased reopening of schools, schools in the capital Addis Ababa and in some regions are gradually opening their doors to students, starting with grade 8 and 12 students, who need to sit for the national examinations. Schools in some of the refugee camps have also reopened with the necessary precautions put in place, also focusing on grade 8 and 12 students. The reopening is expected to be gradually extended to other grades over the coming weeks.

COVID-19 Prevention and Response

  • The Government’s Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR, together with the Regional Health Bureaus and other health partners continue to reinforce their response to COVID-19 in both refugee camps and other locations sheltering refugees and asylum seekers. They have enhanced communication and hygiene and are continuously working to reduce overcrowding to curb the spread of the virus. Supplies of water and soap continue to be reinforced, together with the installation of handwashing stations, as well as ongoing strengthening of health services, equipping isolation and quarantine centers, and the provision of personal protective equipment for health care workers, first responders and others.

  • Five ICU beds, 5 patient monitors, 50 oxygen cylinders, 10 oxygen concentrators and 300 coverall gowns are being delivered to the Gambella Regional Health Bureau to help in the COVID-19 response in the Gambella Region.  PPEs, COVID-related medicines and medical equipment worth approximately 1 million USD are being delivered for health services and health staff while a fresh procurement order for medicines and medical equipment for both COVID and regular health programmes has just been placed.

  • 38,746 handwashing stations have been installed in communal centres and households in all the 26 refugee camps to promote regular handwashing with soap. 37,477 of these have been installed in refugee households and 1,269 were set up in communal facilities providing services to refugees and asylum seekers. More capacity is needed to ensure that every refugee household has a handwashing facility.

  • Over 2,509 trained health and community outreach workers are actively engaged in awareness raising, case investigation and management, as well as mitigation, prevention and control of the virus. They include 446 healthcare workers, 22 laboratory technicians and 1,719 community outreach workers who are serving both the refugees and the communities hosting them. In addition, refugee representatives, Refugee Outreach Volunteers (ROVs), women, youth and child committees and other community representatives were trained and are actively engaged to ensure that basic preventive measures are observed in the communities.

  • The daily average per capita water distribution in the refugee camps stands at 18.4 liters, with six refugee camps out of 26 receiving less than 15 liters per person per day, below the UNHCR minimum standard of 20 litres per person per day. UNHCR, ARRA and partners are working to ensure that all refugees have access to adequate potable water in keeping with the minimum international standards.

  • Isolation facilities, known as Temporary Assessment Units, have been set up in all refugee camps to temporarily quarantine possible suspected COVID-19 cases pending their transfer to Government isolation and treatment facilities, if necessary. UNHCR is working to equip these facilities and extend support to the Government-run treatment centers which are also accessible to refugees. Recently, UNHCR provided 160 hospital beds and 170 mattresses to help furnish the camp-based isolation centres in Melkadida. It also donated medical equipment to the Government-run COVID-19 treatment centre in Dollo Ado and 100 coverall gowns to the Gambella Regional Health Bureau for use by medical personnel who are collecting samples for testing. In the Afar Region, sheltering thousands of refugees in Aysaita and Barahle Camps, UNHCR supported the equipping of two Government quarantine facilities, providing 40 beds, mattress and beddings, two 10,000-litre water tanks and four pedal hand-washing machines.

  • In the capital, Addis Ababa, where over 33,000 urban refugees reside, UNHCR is communicating with refugees via telephone helplines, WhatsApp and Telegram groups. Refugee Outreach Volunteers (ROVs) and refugee leaders are also helping raise awareness. In order to meet additional expenses for soap and other sanitary materials, UNHCR provides an additional allowance of 300 Ethiopian Birr (US$ 7.98) per person per month, to those refugees entitled to monthly living allowances.

  • UNHCR is supporting the inter-agency COVID-19 response to the IDP situation in the country, distributing non-food items, equipping isolation and quarantine centers and providing community communications on health messaging.