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Coronavirus: UNHCR Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Bi-Monthly Update


769,310 Refugees and asylum seekers as of 31 July

40,039 Handwashing facilities in camps

18.6 litres Average per capita water supply in camps

2,151 Health and community workers trained

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COVID-19 Operational Context

The Government of Ethiopia declared a five-month state of emergency in early April 2020 as part of the efforts to contain the spread of corona virus in the country. This came weeks after it closed all land borders and schools, leaving millions, including over 200,000 refugee students out of school. UNHCR, ARRA and other partners have been working with the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Regional Education Bureaus (REBs) to include refugee students in the national distance learning programmes. They have been constantly adapting their programmes and ways of working to the evolving context and continue to deliver humanitarian assistance while working to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

As of 20 August 2020, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) reported 35,836 coronavirus cases and 620 fatalities in the country, with growing community transmissions of the virus. MoH and its UN partners have adopted a coordinated approach and are working in the areas of contact tracing, case investigation, case management, prevention and control of infections. The Government has launched a month-long COVID-19 mass testing campaign in the country starting at the beginning of August. This will help provide a clearer picture of the situation in the country and inform the Government’s key decisions, including on whether or not to reopen schools during the new academic year in September 2020.

Prevention and response: The Government of Ethiopia, represented by ARRA, and UNHCR, together with the Regional Health Bureaus and other health partners have scaled up preparedness and the response to COVID-19 in refugee camps and other locations sheltering refugees and asylum seekers. They have enhanced communication and hygiene and are working to reduce overcrowding to curb the spread of the virus. Supply of water and soap continues together with installation of handwashing stations, strengthening health services, equipping isolation and quarantine centres and providing personal protective equipment for health care workers, first responders and others.

A total of 40,039 handwashing stations have been installed in communal centres and households in all the 26 refugee camps to promote regular handwashing with soap. Of these, 38,708 handwashing stations have been installed in refugee households and 1,331 were set up in communal facilities providing services to refugees and asylum seekers. UNHCR provided 320,000 surgical masks while other agencies working in the refugee response also provided personal protective equipment, including masks and sanitizers. UNHCR also provided 100 coverall gowns to the Gambella Regional Health Bureau for use by medical personnel who are collecting samples for testing.

Over 2,150 health and community outreach workers have been trained and are actively engaged in awareness raising, case investigation and management, as well as mitigation, prevention and control of the virus. They include 432 health care workers, 16 laboratory technicians and 1,719 community outreach workers who are serving both the refugees and the communities hosting them. In addition, refugee representatives, Refugee Outreach Volunteers (ROVs), women, youth and child committees and other community representatives were trained and are actively engaged to ensure that basic preventive measures are observed in the communities.

The daily average per capita water distribution in the refugee camps stands at 18.6 liters, with three refugee camps out of 26 receiving less than 15 liters per person per day. UNHCR, ARRA and partners are working to ensure that all refugees have access to adequate potable water in keeping with the minimum international standards.

Isolation facilities, known as Temporary Assessment Units, have been set up in all refugee camps to temporarily quarantine possible suspected COVID-19 cases pending their transfer to Government isolation and treatment facilities if necessary. UNHCR is working to equip these facilities and extend support to the Government-run treatment centers which are also accessible to refugees. Additional isolation units, each with 20 bed capacity, will be constructed in each camp, starting with camps in Gambella, Assosa and Melkadida.

In the capital Addis Ababa, where over 27,500 urban refugees reside, UNHCR is communicating with the refugees via telephone helplines, WhatsApp and Telegram groups. In order to meet additional expenses for soap and other sanitary materials, UNHCR provides an additional allowance of ETB 300 per person per month to those refugees entitled to monthly living allowances.

UNHCR is also supporting the inter-agency COVID-19 response to the IDP situation in the country, distributing non-food aid items, equipping isolation and quarantine centers and providing community communication.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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