1,423,740 Refugees and asylum seekers as of April 2020
2 Refugees positive to COVID-19 (MoH)
141 Refugees and asylum seekers in quarantine
0 COVID-19 deaths among refugees
Since Uganda confirmed its first COVID-19 case on 21 March 2020, the number of positive cases increased to 122 as of 11 May 2020, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH). Fifty-five people have recovered, with no deaths registered to date. A total of 61,460 samples were tested by the Uganda Virus Research Institute as of 11 May 2020.
In his public address to the nation on 4 May, President Yoweri Museveni partially lifted the national lockdown, allowing a few businesses to operate as from 6 May. Among the new measures is the obligation for everyone to wear masks in public. Schools, borders and the airport have remained closed since 20 March. The lockdown measures will be reviewed upon assessment by health experts on 19 May.
Refugee statistics - The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) released the refugee population statistics for April 2020, putting the number of asylum seekers (27,910) and refugees (1,395,830) in Uganda to 1,423,740. South Sudanese make up the largest number, with 880,367 individuals followed by refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (414,831) and Burundi (48,282). More than 60 per cent of the population is under the age of 18, with over 41,000 unaccompanied and separated children. Compared to March 2020, the population increased by 363 individuals, due mostly to registration of new births.
Relocation of asylum seekers and refugees - On 27-29 April, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in coordination with OPM relocated 1,903 asylum seekers and refugees from Kabazana reception centre to plots within Nakivale settlement, in order to reduce congestion and the risk of COVID-19 spread. The reception centre is now empty. Another 605 asylum seekers and refugees remain at reception centres within settlements in southwestern Uganda, including 269 at Kagoma (Kyangwali settlement), 300 at Swese (Kyaka II) and 36 at Mahani (Rwamwanja settlement). All the transit centres along the Ugandan borders with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain empty and closed.
Cash assistance to refugees in Kampala - UNHCR, WFP and OPM will soon implement the provision of cash assistance to all refugees in Kampala (80,257, as per OPM statistics of 30 April 2020). While Uganda’s refugee policy prescribes that only refugees in the settlements regularly receive humanitarian assistance, this ad hoc intervention is urgently required to support over 42,000 refugee households in Kampala to replace lost income during the COVID-19 lockdown. UNHCR’s cash scheme is meant to help refugees in Kampala bear the costs of non-food items and rent over three months, with US $5.1 million required for this intervention. UNHCR has already secured US $1.3 million for this urgent action through the reprioritization of existing resources. Another US $3.8 million are needed to achieve the goal. UNHCR is currently validating the beneficiary list in accordance with the biometric refugee database (proGres v.4) and also finalizing the contract with Airtel for distribution of SIM cards to refugees who do not have phones.
Prevention and response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) - Compared to the pre-lockdown period, UNHCR and partners registered an increase in the number of SGBV incidents in some settlements, especially in locations where SGBV partners had a well-established presence and fully functioning community-based structures. These community networks received guidance on how to manage SGBV survivors, updated referral pathways and contact information of service providers. Expert screening of SGBV cases at health facilities is ongoing and, in some locations, case workers have been embedded with the health teams to provide immediate support.
Child Protection - Although restrictions on movement continue limiting access to children at risk, community-based child protection networks have been increasingly mobilized and are undertaking critical sensitization and outreach activities. Separated children continue to be identified during food distributions. UNHCR and partners are looking to analyze the trends for the recent months and provide appropriate responses.
Persons with Specific Needs - The national Persons with Specific Needs Sub Working Group (PSN SWG) has been analyzing the specific impact of the COVID-19 crisis and related containment measures on PSNs, with a specific focus on persons with disabilities and older persons. Four key areas of concern have been highlighted: 1) New and/or exacerbated barriers in accessing essential services and assistance for persons with mobility restrictions due to restrictions on public transport, including health services and food distribution; 2) Challenges PSNs face in implementing COVID-19 preventive measures due to difficulties in accessing water points and WASH facilities; 3) Increased needs for financial assistance as PSNs’ existing economic vulnerabilities have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis; 4) Information gaps due to lack of accessible messaging on COVID-19 (e.g. braille, sign language) and lack of tailored messaging for PSNs and caretakers on preventative measures which should be taken for groups vulnerable to severe complications from COVID-19 (including the elderly and persons with serious preexisting health conditions). The final document containing a series of recommendations and good practices to address these challenges and inform interventions is underway.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) - In the first four months of 2020, UNHCR and partners recorded 59 suicide attempts and 10 completed suicides in settlements hosting South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, representing an increase relative to the number of attempted suicides (129) and completed suicides (20) registered in 2019. Psychosocial telephone counseling is ongoing in many settlements, with face-to-face Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) limited to emergency cases.
Communication with Communities - In April, the Feedback, Referral and Resolution Mechanism (FRRM) helpline received 2,347 calls and resolved 1,930 queries over the phone through standard Frequently Asked Questions. Another 427 queries were referred to UNHCR and partners for a follow-up. Compared to March, the calls increased by 22 per cent across the response. Of April’s total calls, 70 per cent originated from Kampala, representing an increase of over 400 per cent compared to the number of calls placed in March by refugees living in Kampala. Many of the queries originating from Kampala relate to requests for additional information on the UNHCR cash assistance project for urban refugees and available assistance for vulnerable individuals. With UNHCR’s support, the FRRM helpline agents have been able to work from home since 8 April, ensuring continuity of service.
Resettlement - UNHCR will resume resettlement activities in selected locations in the week of 11 May, using remote interviewing. In line with the safety protocols prescribed by the presidential directives to contain COVID-19, resettlement interviews will start again in Kyaka II, Kyangwali, Nakivale and then Kampala.
Detention monitoring - Six refugees were among 833 prisoners who have been recently granted a presidential pardon and are due to be released shortly. UNHCR contacted their respective families and learned they are willing to receive the former inmates. Protection partners have also been activated to provide these refugees with the necessary assistance.