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UNHCR Ethiopia Weekly Operational Update: 15 May 2020

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Update on COVID-19

As of 14 May 2020, Ethiopia tested 45,278 people and reported 272 confirmed COVID-19 cases, five deaths and 108 recoveries. The situation continues to evolve rapidly as the Government’s testing capacity increases. Six of the country’s nine Regional States as well as Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa City Administrations have reported COVID-19 cases. These are regions and cities hosting a considerable number of refugees and/or IDPs and returnees.

The refugee camps have so far been spared from the infections, but UNHCR and partners continue to intensify efforts to prevent and limit the potential spread of the corona virus among over 761,000 refugees in the country.

The joint Ethiopia Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan (ERPRP) for COVID-19 which was developed by ARRA, UNHCR and WFP was officially released. The Plan provides a guide to drive multi-sectoral and inter-agency humanitarian actions in response to the transmission and impact of the COVID-19 in the Ethiopia refugee operation.

Prevention and response: UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies continue delivering protection and life-saving assistance and services to refugees, while scaling up COVID-19 prevention and response activities. Together with other humanitarian agencies and local and regional authorities, UNHCR is actively engaged to prevent and respond to COVID-19 in IDP affected communities.

Campaigning to inform refugees to keep apart from each other and to wash their hands as often as possible is being intensified together with efforts to increase water supplies to at least 17 litres per person per day. A total of 948 communal and 27,664 household handwashing stations have been established in the camps. With this and the doubling of the provision of soap from 250g to 500g, there are now some discernible improvements in handwashing habits.

The prevention and response effort is well coordinated with the regional Governments and local administrations where the refugee camps are located. Refugees have been included in regional preparedness and response plans, and are already benefiting from the quarantine centres, case investigation, testing, isolation and case management services set up by the regional health bureaus.

Temporary isolation sites have been set up in each camp to isolate suspected cases of COVID-19. The sites will serve to temporarily accommodate potential suspected cases until they are transferred to the Government designated isolation and treatment centers, in keeping with the national policy. UNHCR, ARRA and other partners, are developing additional isolation and treatment facilities in the camps to treat mild to moderate cases - as part of worst-case scenario if/when the government facilities are overwhelmed. Medicine and medical supplies are being purchased for all refugee camps with some urgently needed items being procured locally within the regions. However, owing to the global supply shortfalls, the sourcing and procurement process is taking longer than usual. A first shipment of masks has arrived in Addis Ababa.

Some 71% (392) of the targeted health personnel and community health volunteers have been trained in all camps except in the Afar Region and the Jijiga camps where sessions have been delayed. The training covers surveillance, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), case management, safe transport, and Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE).
Following the nation-wide closure of schools as part of the fight against COVID-19, over 200,000 refugee students in Ethiopia are currently out of school. UNHCR and partners are advocating with the Ministry of Education and Regional Education Bureaus for the inclusion of refugee students in the Government’s distance education programmes. However, there are several practical challenges to implement the programme, including limited radio wave coverage in the camps, insufficient number of radio sets in the refugee camps and the need to translate the radio lessons into languages spoken by the refugees. Over 60,000 solar powered radio sets are needed to receive the daily broadcasted education programmes.