South Africa + 17 more

COVID-19 Emergency Response: Regional Bureau for Southern Africa, 29 May 2020

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14,478 refugees and asylum-seekers reached in Zimbabwe through a mass COVID-19 awareness campaign that included a live broadcast on local radio, listened to by both refugee and host community members.

121,501 refugees, IDPs and host community members reached in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with awareness-raising messages on COVID-19 since the beginning of the response.

3,097 calls received on UNHCR’s Helpline in South Africa since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, mostly from refugees and asylumseekers requesting assistance with food and rent.

Operational Context

As of 25 May 2020, there are a reported 29,149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa, with South Africa reporting the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent. Across the region, national efforts to contain COVID-19 include varying restrictions on movement, limits on social gatherings, prohibition of public events, suspension of commercial flights, closure of borders, and nation-wide lockdowns. Exceptions are often made for goods and cargo, as well as returning citizens and legal residents to move across borders. While some countries have extended their lockdowns and states of emergency, many are beginning phased approaches to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

UNHCR is working with governments, WHO and other UN agencies and NGOs to secure the inclusion of persons of concern – refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless people and other marginalized communities – in preparedness and response measures for COVID-19. UNHCR has also been expanding its outreach efforts in the region with the support of partners and community volunteers to better engage persons of concern and their host communities with information about COVID-19 prevention and services.

In order to continue monitoring affected communities’ perception of COVID-19, UNHCR and partners are carrying out remote surveys to understand the needs, fears and threats expressed by the population. To encourage social distancing, UNHCR has been promoting the use of hotlines to report protection issues, such as sexual and genderbased violence (SGBV) as well as general assistance needs.