COVID-19 Operational Context
As of 06 October 2020, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) reported 80,003 coronavirus cases and 1,238 fatalities in the country, with growing community transmissions of the virus. More than 1.3 million samples were collected and tested throughout the country, including nearly 190,000 samples collected and tested as part of a nation-wide Community-Based Activities and Testing campaign (ComBAT). Following the ComBAT, the Government released a preliminary schedule for a phased reopening of schools starting from 19th October. This will include camp-based schools where most of the over 200,000 refugee students are attending classes.
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.
COVID-19 Prevention and Response
The Government’s Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (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 continuously working to reduce overcrowding to curb the spread of the virus. The supplies of water and soap continue to be enhanced, together with the installation of handwashing stations, strengthening health services, equipping isolation and quarantine centers and the provision of personal protective equipment for health care workers, first responders and others.
900,000 disposable gloves, 525 Infrared Thermometers, and 24,500 surgical masks have arrived in the country, which will be distributed to the different refugee camps following customs clearance. This is in addition to 340,000 face masks already distributed by UNHCR.
37,513 handwashing stations have been installed in communal centres and households in all the 26 refugee camps to promote regular handwashing with soap. 36,128 of these have been installed in refugee households and 1,385 were set up in communal facilities providing services to refugees and asylum seekers. More will need to be done to ensure that every refugee household has a handwashing facility.
Over 2,150 trained health and community outreach workers are actively engaged in awareness raising, case investigation and management, as well as mitigation, prevention and control of the virus. They include 410 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 19 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. Recently, UNHCR provided 160 hospital beds and 170 mattresses to help furnish the camp-based isolation centres in Melkadida. It also donated medical equipment to the Governmentrun COVID-19 treatment centre in Dollo Ado and 100 coverall gowns to the Gambella Regional Health Bureau for use by medical personnel who are collecting samples for testing. In the Afar Region, sheltering thousands of refugees in Aysaita and Barahle Camps, UNHCR supported the equipping of two Government quarantine facilities, providing 40 beds, mattress and beddings, two 10,000-litre water tanks and four pedal hand-washing machines.
In the capital, Addis Ababa, where over 33,000 urban refugees reside, UNHCR is communicating with the refugees via telephone helplines, WhatsApp and Telegram groups. Refugee Outreach Volunteers (ROVs) and refugee leaders are also helping raise awareness. In order to meet additional expenses for soap and other sanitary materials, UNHCR provides an additional allowance of 300 Ethiopian Birr (US$ 8.6) per person per month, to those refugees entitled to monthly living allowances.
UNHCR is supporting the inter-agency COVID-19 response to the IDP situation in the country, distributing non-food items, equipping isolation and quarantine centers and providing community communication.