Uganda + 3 more

Uganda: UNHCR COVID-19 Response Bi-Monthly Update, 26 May 2020

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1,423,740 Refugees and asylum seekers as of April 2020

6 Refugees tested positive to date

2 Refugees recovered to date

230 Refugees and asylum seekers in quarantine

Operational context

  • Since Uganda confirmed its first COVID-19 case on 21 March 2020, the number of positive cases increased to 222 as of 25 May, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH). Among them are four refugees. Following a new presidential directive dated 19 May, Uganda’s total confirmed case count does no longer include the number of foreign truck drivers who tested positive for COVID-19 and were handed over to their country of origin – which stood at 241 as of 25 May. Sixty-nine people have recovered from COVID-19, including two refugees. No deaths have been registered so far. As of 25 May, 82,271 samples were tested by the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

  • In his 14th address to the nation on 19-20 May, President Yoweri Museveni announced the timelines for the easing of lockdown measures. As from 26 May, private cars will be allowed to drive with maximum three people, including the driver while public transport will be allowed to operate at half capacity as from 4 June. Movement restrictions continue in all border districts. Wearing a mask in public is mandatory. Schools, borders and the airport remain closed.

Highlights

Protection

  • Access to territory and asylum – The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continued to advocate with the government for the safe passage of asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in neighbouring countries, after an estimated 1,000 people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) fled deadly clashes between Hema and Lendu communities in the Ituri province and were reportedly stranded on 17 May in no-man land between Uganda and DRC, west of Uganda’s Zombo district International media reported the killing of at least 20 people in DRC’s Ituri province after the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) militia, consisting of fighters from the Lendu ethnic group, attacked a Hema village in the early morning of Sunday.

  • Refugees in reception facilities – UNHCR and partners continued to provide assistance to 927 asylum seekers and refugees currently hosted in reception centres within settlements in southwestern Uganda, including 269 at Kagoma (Kyangwali settlement), 644 at Swese (Kyaka II) and 14 at Mahani (Rwamwanja settlement). All transit facilities along the Ugandan borders with South Sudan and the DRC remain empty and closed.

  • Peaceful coexistence – UNHCR in coordination with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and local authorities engaged refugee leaders and other key community influencers to help restore peace in Kiryandongo settlement (Kiryandongo district), Rhino Camp settlement (Madi Okollo district) and Maaji III settlement (Adjumani) after several incidents of inter and intra community conflict led to volatile security and loss of lives during the reporting period.
    In Rhino Camp, a witch doctor was arrested after inciting violence against a blind man believed to be a curse for the community. Violence between refugee youth from different ethnic groups resulted in the death of two refugees in Maaj III, including a teenager. In Kiryandongo, intra-community violence between refugee youth left two refugees dead and another 15 people injured, including a national. The Police deployed additional personnel in Kiryandongo to restore order in the area. Twenty-two refugees remain in custody at the Kiryandongo Police Station, including 10 charged with murder, assault and incitement of violence. The situation returned to normal in all of the above settlements. While not directly linked to the COVID-19 crisis, the lockdown measures and the increased idleness among refugee youth have contributed to deepen tribal and political cleavages that existed prior to the pandemic outbreak and were the cause of armed conflict and mass displacement in the country of origin of these refugees.

  • Child Protection – The Child protection Sub Working Group, co-chaired by UNHCR and UNICEF, undertook an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on refugee children. One of the worrying findings is the steep increase in the number of children approaching food distribution’s litigation desks without caregivers, which skyrocketed from 807 in January to 4,305 in April. With an already inadequate child case worker to child ratio of 1:141 (below the global standard of 1:25), providing effective child protection services to increasing numbers of child food collectors remain a challenge. An inter-agency assessment and verification form was developed along with standard operating procedures on child protection considerations for food distribution to ensure that children access food, the risks facing them are properly assessed and their needs managed.

§ Prevention and response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence – UNHCR and partners identified and provided lifesaving support to 47 SGBV survivors during the reporting period, including psychosocial and legal counselling and access to medical care. The number of SGBV incidents has increased since the enforcement of COVID-19 containment measures. Awareness-raising activities on SGBV prevention took place in several settlements.

  • Cash assistance to refugees in Kampala – UNHCR, WFP and OPM continued to prepare the ground for the provision of cash assistance to 42,694 refugee households in Kampala to help them bear the costs of food, non-food items and rent over three months. UNHCR has so far validated the identity of more than 9,000 refugee households (out of 15,800 with an active SIM card) against the biometric refugee database (proGres v.4) and signed a contract with Airtel on 20 May to enable refugees receiving and withdrawing mobile money disbursed by UNHCR and WFP. Airtel will also distribute SIM cards to 26,894 refugee households without a cell number and make additional cell phones available at their agent outlets to allow refugees without a phone to cash the transfer. UNHCR began communication with refugee communities in Kampala to inform them of the scope and modalities of assistance and will begin disbursement of mobile money before the end of May, starting with about 2,500 households