UNICEF Ethiopia COVID-19 Situation Report No. 22: March-December 2020

Situation Report
Originally published


Reporting Period: March-December 2020


  • With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic in Ethiopia in March 2020, and multiple other humanitarian crises such conflicts and flooding, at least 5 million more children were identified as needing assistance in addition to the 4.87 million identified in 2020 (Humanitarian Response Plan Mid- Year Review). Efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have inadvertently led to increased vulnerabilities for children and women, who for a period of time could not access essential health services such as routine vaccinations, and malnutrition (from January to November 2020, Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) admissions increased by up to 13.5 per cent when compared to the same period in 2019). Other risks were protection and education related (for instance, 2.72 million children did not re-enroll when schools reopened in Ethiopia) and increased child poverty linked to rising income poverty, particularly in urban areas. This fact is highlighted in UNICEF’s policy brief which estimates that 800,000 people would have fallen below the poverty line as a result of COVID-19 related economic shocks.

  • In terms of UNICEF response, by the end of 2020, a total of 15,119 health workers were provided with personal protective equipment (PPE), including 119 who provide services to refugees. Another 2,455 social workers received PPE, including 453 working with refugees. A total of 47,482,598 people (791,704 refugees) were reached with messaging on COVID-19 prevention, both through health and WASH risk communication activities. In addition, another 116,372 people (21,585 refugees) were reached with messaging on COVID-19 prevention and access to gender-based violence (GBV) and child protection services. In addition, 2.28 million people including 56,625 refugees received WASH supplies and services while 140,699 people of whom 45,000 were refugees accessed basic sanitation services. A total of 47,424 children and their primary caregivers received mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) while 311,289 primary caregivers (52,931 refugees) received counselling on infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and 118,044 severely and acutely malnourished children aged 6-59 months, including 2,506 refugees, received malnutrition treatment.

  • Some 5.2 million school children accessed distance learning and 20,000 solar radios were procured and distributed to children in emergency affected areas where there is no access to TV or radio, reaching an estimated 70,000 children. Some 2,500 of these radios were distributed to refugee children. A total of 120,576 children were provided with learning materials during school re-opening, while 802,441 children (71,902 refugees) in 1,478 schools (48 in refugee areas) benefitted from WASH supplies. In addition, 93,120 households in 11 cities in the Urban Productive Safety Net Programme (UPSNSP) received cash transfers to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Epidemiological Overview

On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared COVID‐19 a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005); and on March 11, 2020, it was declared a pandemic. Ethiopia was classified among the priority countries at high risk of COVID-19 importation. On March 13, the first confirmed case in Ethiopia was declared by the Ministry of Health (MOH). On April 8, a national State of Emergency (SoE) was declared to last until September 2020. Experimental treatments and vaccines were under development by the end of 2020 and plans were underway for developing countries like Ethiopia to access the most viable vaccines through the COVAX facility targeting the most-at-risk groups.

As of December 31, Ethiopia had 124,264 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,800,236 sample tests conducted and 112,077 recoveries, representing 90.2 per cent of all COVID-19 positive cases since the beginning of the outbreak in the country. A total of 1,923 deaths were recorded (CFR=1.55 per cent). Daily laboratory testing capacity has become more targeted, primarily at contacts of positive cases as well as travelers, but mainly in Addis Ababa. Some 234 patients were in critical condition. As of December 31, there were 1,596 positive cases reported among children aged 0 to 4 years (1.43 per cent) and 17 deaths. Among children aged between 5-14 years, 3,651 cases were recorded (3.28 per cent) with 33 deaths. COVID-19 positive cases have been reported throughout Ethiopia, with the highest caseloads reported in Addis Ababa, Oromia and Tigray regions respectively. The distribution of cases by region (See Figure 1 below) shows that Addis Ababa city represents 55.8 per cent of the total caseload followed by Oromia, Tigray, Amhara, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP), Sidama, Benishangul-Gumuz, Afar, Somali and Gambella.