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Uganda - Rapid Briefing Note: Impact of the COVID-19 resurgence in refugee-hosting districts, July 2021

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INTRODUCTION

Since May 2021, Uganda has been affected by a resurgence of COVID-19. Between March and April 2021, the country registered an 81% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. While the surge in COVID-19 cases was initially centered around Kampala, it has increasingly affected other areas of the country, including refugee-hosting districts. With increased pressure on hospitals and intensive-care units (ICUs), the Ugandan government imposed further restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 on 6th June 2021, which resulted in a 42-day nation-wide lockdown on 18th June 2021.

Refugees and host communities have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 resurgence. Most of the 1.5 million refugees living in Uganda prior to COVID-19 were considered highly vulnerable and many were already dependent on assistance. On 22nd June 2021, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) announced the suspension of travel to refugee settlements, except for partners cleared by the OPM Department of Refugees carrying out life-saving services. In line with this directive, humanitarian partners have been instructed to stop all non-life-saving activities in refugee settlements until 30 July 2021.

This inter-agency rapid briefing note, created by REACH in partnership with UNHCR, the Refugee INGO Network (RINGO) and ACTED, assesses the situation of the current COVID-19 restrictions on refugees in settlement and in non-settlement contexts, as well as host communities, to better understand their needs and the extent to which humanitarian actors have been able to respond.

This briefing note aims to inform the humanitarian response and draw attention to the severity of the situation for refugees in Uganda. The briefing note is based on 26 interviews with key informants (KIs), including sector and sub-sector leads, settlement commandants, members of COVID-19 district-level task forces and representatives of the civil society, conducted between 30 June and 11 July. The interviews are complemented by secondary data, including the UNHCR Resurgence Plan, the COVID-19 High Frequency Phone Survey, and a survey con- ducted by U-Learn with refugee representatives of the Refugee Engagement Forum (REF). Given the refugee and host communities were not able to be interviewed directly, the information provided in this briefing note should be considered indicative.