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UNHCR West & Central Africa COVID-19 Emergency Response, 27 May 2020

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The West and Central Africa region has seen a 22% percent increase in new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last week going from 32,401 contaminations on 19 May to a total of 39,585 on 26 May 2020.

While the increase rate slows down at regional level, we are observing a second wave of contaminations in some countries following the easing preventive measures and movement restrictions last week.

In the region, Cameroon and Nigeria saw the sharpest increase in confirmed cases with respectively more than 1,900 (+54%) and over 2000 (+30%) new infections to COVID-19 in the past week.

Operational Context

  • Continuous increase of confirmed cases. Since the first case of COVID-19 was declared in Nigeria on 28 February 2020, the pandemic has progressed steadily throughout West and Central Africa where it has killed 929 people. As of 26 May 2020, WHO statistics show 39,585 confirmed cases in the 21 countries covered by the Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa with 24,640 still active and 15,503 recoveries. To date, Nigeria (8,344), Ghana (7,117), Cameroon (5,436), Guinea (3,358) and Senegal (3,161) have been the most affected. In terms of active cases, Nigeria (5,710) has the highest number, followed by Ghana (4,766), Cameroon (3,265) and Gabon (1,631). Guinea and Senegal join Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Liberia, Mali and Niger with more recovered cases than actives.

  • Preventive measures and restrictions on movement. To mitigate the socio-economic impact of these measures, the majority of states relaxed restriction measures last week. In Cote d’Ivoire, the President of the Republic has authorized the effective start of classes in public and private primary schools throughout the national territory, from Monday 18 May 2020, except for the Regional Directorates of Abidjan, Dabou, Aboisso and the Departmental Directorate of Grand-Bassam. The curfew has been lifted. As the movement restrictions are lifted and business are reopening, we are observing the second wave of contaminations. In the region, Cameroon and Nigeria saw the sharpest increase in confirmed cases with respectively more than 1,900 (+54%) and over 2000 (+30%) new infections to COVID-19 only in the past week.

  • Specific protection risks and challenges for forcibly displaced populations. Refugees and IDPs are often residing in overcrowded and precarious conditions rendering impossible social distancing or basic preventive measures such as hand washing which exposes them to heightened risks of contamination as COVID-19 cases. Although only three cases of infection were reported among UNHCR’s persons of concern in Cameroon in Nigeria so far, forcibly displaced populations are also at heightened risk of stigmatization in situations of pandemic. In addition to these specific challenges, forcible displaced populations are also facing the risk of food insecurity in the region, particularly in the Sahel. There are also great concerns regarding gender-based violence which is on the rise since the beginning of the COVID crisis as a direct result of the preventive measures enforced and the economic strain these restrictions have put on many households. The significant disruption in the livelihoods of many forcibly displaced population is also increasing the risk of resorting to negative coping mechanisms, including child labour which UNHCR is monitoring closely.