The COVID-19 situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continues to stabilize in certain countries, while in some a resurgence of cases is being observed. Governments across MENA are beginning the widespread roll-out of COVID-19 national vaccination campaigns. While UNHCR is not procuring vaccinations—as this remains the prerogative and responsibility of governments—it is supporting refugee host countries through other COVID-preparedness and response interventions. Among these are critical health, sanitation, hygiene and logistical support as well as personal protective equipment (PPE). In Israel, a first round of vaccinations was launched in late 2020, targeting elderly persons and those working in the health sector. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has instructed clinics and health centres to include non-citizen residents above the age of 55 (including asylum-seekers and refugees) into the MoH priority group so they can access the vaccine on par with Israeli citizens. In January, Jordan also began COVID-19 vaccinations for refugees. As part of Jordan’s national COVID-19 vaccination plan, anyone living in the country, including refugees and asylum-seekers, is entitled to receive the vaccine free of charge.
According to WHO Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt continues to experience an upward trend in cases. The MoH announced the first phase of vaccinations in the country would be conducted during the third week of January, prioritizing vulnerable groups and frontline workers. The country has started to implement renewed measures to control the spread of COVID-19 including mandatory face masks in public, and limiting the number of people in commercial establishments.
In Mauritania, the Government announced the adoption of special socio-economic measures to support vulnerable sections of the population. UNHCR is working with the Government, WHO and UNICEF to ensure that refugees are included in the MoH’s vaccination plan as soon as the vaccine becomes available in Mauritania.