COVID-19 Operational Context
Since the first confirmed COVID-19 case was found in Ethiopia in March 2020, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) reported 277,318 active corona virus (COVID-19) cases and 4,349 related deaths in the country. A total of 2,07,549 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, including 3,720 refugees. According to media reports, Ethiopia is one of the top five African countries that have registered a high number of COVID-19 cases. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) has issued a statement requiring travellers exiting, entering or transiting through Ethiopia to present digital negative COVID-19 certificates at all points of entry. According to MoH’s instructions, only African Union Trusted Travel or Global Haven COVID-19 test certificates shall be allowed from July 1.
COVID-19 Prevention and Response
While vaccinations continue to be administered to priority groups including frontline health workers, individuals with severe underlying medical conditions and elderly people, UNHCR, the Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) and their partners, including the Regional Health Bureaus, continue to reinforce prevention measures in the refugee camps and sites hosting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). They are enhancing communications on personal and environmental hygiene, reducing overcrowding, and promoting handwashing with soap. Supplies of water and soap continue to be provided, together with the installation of handwashing stations, enhancing health services and the provision of available personal protective equipment for health care workers, first responders and others.
A total of 36,451 handwashing stations have been installed in communal centres and households in different refugee camps to promote regular handwashing with soap. However, additional capacity is needed to ensure that all refugee camps have such facilities in place and that every refugee household is equipped with a handwashing facility.
2,469 trained health and community outreach workers are actively engaged in awareness raising, case investigations and management, as well as mitigation and prevention activities to control the virus. In addition, refugee representatives, Refugee Outreach Volunteers (ROVs), women, youth and children’s committees and other community representatives have been 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 litres. While some of the camps have access to more than 20 litres per person/day, in line with UNHCR standards, others are receiving less than the emergency threshold of 15 litres per person/day. UNHCR, ARRA and partners continue to work to ensure that all refugees have access to adequate potable water, upholding 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 as needed. Each of the 24 refugee camps has at least one such facility. UNHCR has provided hospital beds, mattresses, coverall gowns and other supplies to equip the facilities and the health staff. In addition, UNHCR supports the work of the Government-run treatment centers, which are also accessible to refugees.
In the capital Addis Ababa, which currently hosts over 50,000 urban refugees, UNHCR is communicating with refugees via WhatsApp and Telegram groups. Refugee Outreach Volunteers (ROVs) and refugee leaders are also helping to raise awareness. In addition, telephone helplines and an online portal (Digital Request and Complaints System) are fully functional. Concerned UNHCR staff are processing and responding to requests on daily basis.
To meet additional expenses for soap and other sanitary materials, UNHCR provides an allowance of 300 Ethiopian Birr ($6.84) per person/month to urban-based refugees entitled to monthly living allowances. The intervention is monitored through post-distribution phone interviews by UNHCR staff.
Registration services have resumed (previously interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic) at the UNHCR’s office in Addis Ababa, to issue refugees with registration documents and update their data. However, to ensure the safety of refugees and staff, and in line with the current health measures, the Office is receiving only a limited number of beneficiaries
UNHCR continues to support 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.