RISING COVID-19 CASES IN WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA
The past week has been marked by rising cases and deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of 31 March, 1,251 cases and 39 deaths have been recorded in West and Central African countries. Sao-Tome and Principe remains the only virus-free country in the region. Containment measures throughout the region range from confinement, quarantine of major hotspots to establishment of curfews, states of health emergencies and ban on public gatherings.
CONTINUED RETURN OF MALIAN REFUGEES FROM BURKINA FASO
Following a deterioration of the security situation over the past few months in Dori region, north-eastern Burkina Faso, more than 11,000 Malian refugees expressed their intention to return to Mali. UNHCR confirmed that 3,440 refugees have left Burkina Faso.
They have settled in the regions of Gao and Timbuktu, in areas where humanitarian access is difficult, which may limit the capacity for humanitarian assistance and protection. The UNHCR office in Gao coordinates the multi-sectoral response in favour of these returnees alongside UN agencies, NGOs and government departments. With the support of WHO, the humanitarian response will include COVID-19 prevention measures.
VILLAGERS FLEE INSECURITY AND THREATS
On 23 March, the village of Bayima, in central Mopti district, was attacked by unidentified armed men, killing four people.
Subsequently, all 2,000 estimated villagers fled to nearby Sevare city and other villages.
The day before the attack, the village Imam was kidnapped. Fighting between non-state armed groups around the village has been going on since 16 March. Residents of other villages in the commune of Fatoma have also fled towards Socoura and Sevare following threats from unidentified armed groups.
WORSENING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS AND COVID-19 IMPACT
Burkina Faso is the most affected country by the COVID-19 pandemic in West Africa, with 261 cases and 14 deaths as of 30 March.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is increasingly concerned about the impact the disease could have on those already severely affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis and particularly on its displaced population. In its 2020 response plan, IOM appealed for USD 30 million to provide immediate assistance to populations in northern Burkina Faso. In addition, the organization is scaling up its response, recently providing 100 emergency shelters to some 700 IDPs and Malian asylum seekers in the north of the country.
QUARANTINE IMPOSED ON CITIES WITH COVID-19 CASES
On 26 March, the Government of Burkina Faso announced quarantine measures in eight cities with COVID-19 registered cases, including Ouagadougou and the economic capital and port of entry for goods arriving from the Gulf of Guinea countries, BoboDioulasso. The quarantine, which started on 27 March will last for an initial period of two weeks. As a result, all movements in and out of the affected cities are forbidden. The restrictions may further affect supply chains.
Processing incoming humanitarian assistance was already slowed down due to reduced customs officials at border points.
The closure of markets will also likely affect cash-based humanitarian activities.
MILITARY OPERATION, EVACUATIONS IN LAC REGION
On 26 March, the government of Chad launched military operations in the Lac province, in the surroundings of Baga Sola, and ordered the evacuation of all villagers from the area. The announcement came after a deadly attack in Boma on 23 March that killed 98 Chadian soldiers and civilians and injured 47. Close to 2,000 people are known to have fled to Diamerom, in western Kaiga Kindjiria sub-prefecture, following the attack. The full extent of ensuing internal displacement is being assessed.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.