Since the beginning of UNHCR’s COVID-19 response in Southern Africa
2 million people reached through COVID-19 risk communication
299,000 households received soap for handwashing to prevent COVID-19
3,869 children and youth supported with distance and home learning
As of 20 July 2020, there are a reported 407,198 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa, representing a 150 per cent increase over a three-week period.
South Africa continues to report the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent, with case numbers spiking in recent weeks. While governments across the region continue to take precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus, including lockdowns, closure of borders, schools and shops, and movement restrictions, these measures are gradually being eased in many countries of the region, in spite of increasing case numbers.
Slowness of COVID-19 testing remains a concern, due in part to shortages of test kits and limited laboratory capacity. This is having a negative impact on the transmission chain, especially in areas where people live in close proximity to one another, such as in camps and in some low-income urban areas. Further, COVID-19 restrictions have had severe economic impacts on vulnerable populations, including refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons. Lost income as a result of limitations on movement and economic activity has meant that the number of people requesting assistance from UNHCR has increased significantly, notably among those who had previously been self-sufficient, as they now struggle to put food on the table, pay rent, or cover the cost of utilities.
UNHCR is working with governments, World Health Organization and other UN agencies and NGOs to secure the inclusion of people of concern – refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless people and other marginalized communities – in preparedness and response measures for COVID-19.
UNHCR and partners have also committed to a ‘stay and deliver’ approach, continuing to provide critical services and assistance while adopting social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures. This includes implementation of strict health protocols at distribution points, the use of hotlines to report protection issues and assistance needs, and support to virtual and distance learning and capacity building. UNHCR has also been expanding its outreach efforts in the region with the support of partners and community volunteers to spread the message among persons of concern and their host communities about COVID-19 prevention and services.