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UNHCR Ethiopia COVID-19 and Operational Update 11 January 2021

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802,821 Refugees and asylum seekers as of 31 December 2020

42,695 Handwashing facilities in camps

2,509 Health and community workers trained

COVID-19 Operational Context

As of 07 January 2021, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) reported 127,227 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and 1,966 deaths in the country. Ethiopia is currently registering the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the Horn of Africa.

**COVID-19 Prevention and Response

The Government’s Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR, together with the Regional Health Bureaus and other health partners continue to reinforce their response to COVID-19 in both refugee camps and other locations sheltering refugees and asylum seekers throughout the country.

They have enhanced communication and hygiene and are continuously working to reduce overcrowding to curb the spread of the virus. Supplies of water and soap continue to be reinforced, together with the installation of handwashing stations, as well as ongoing strengthening of health services and the provision of personal protective equipment for health care workers, first responders and others. However, the delivery of services including COVID-19 prevention and response in the four refugee camps in the Tigray Region has come to a complete halt over the past weeks due to the conflict.  PPEs, COVID-related medicines and medical equipment worth approximately $1 million are being delivered for health services and health staff while a fresh procurement order for medicines and medical equipment for both COVID and regular health programmes has just been placed.

Procurement of 5 ICU beds, 5 patient monitors, 50 oxygen cylinders, 10 oxygen concentrators and 300 coverall gowns for the Gambella Regional Health Bureau is in its final stage and partly delivered. PPEs have also been provided to various health facilities in Bule Hora where UNHCR is involved in the response to IDPs.

  • 42,695 handwashing stations have been installed in communal centres and households in all 20 of the 26 refugee camps to promote regular handwashing with soap. We are unable to update the data for the remaining six camps (four in Tigray two in Afar) due to the conflict. 41,474 of these have been installed in refugee households and 1,221 were set up in communal facilities providing services to refugees and asylum seekers. More capacity is needed to ensure that every refugee household is equipped with a handwashing facility.

  • Over 2,500 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 446 healthcare workers, 22 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 litres. While some of the camps have access to 20 liters per person per day per the UNHCR standard, others are receiving less than the emergency threshold of 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. The conflict in Tigray Region has seriously disrupted the water provision in the 4 camps located in the region. UNHCR and partners will work to normalize service provision there as soon as the situation allows, following assessments of the effects of the conflict.

  • 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 has provided hospital beds, mattresses, coverall gowns and other supplies to equip these facilities and extended support to the Government-run treatment centers which are also accessible to refugees. The construction of five additional isolation facilities in the five Melkadida camps has been completed.  In the capital, Addis Ababa, where over 33,000 urban refugees reside, UNHCR is communicating with refugees via telephone helplines, WhatsApp and Telegram groups. In addition to this, a Digital Request and Complaint System (DRCS) is fully functional, with an average of 100 requests received on daily basis and processed by the Protection team. 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 allowance of 300 Ethiopian Birr ($7.61) per person per month, to urban-based refugees entitled to monthly living allowances to whom a two-month advance cash transfer is also made as a living allowance. The intervention is monitored through post-distribution phone interviews by Protection staff.

  • The Registration services resumed at the UNHCR office in Addis Ababa to issue refugees with registration documents and update their data. Limited numbers are received per day due to the health measures in place to ensure the safety of refugees. In parallel, UNHCR also supports Voluntary Repatriation through the facilitation of exit visa processes for Yemeni refugees in Ethiopia.

  • 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 communications on health messaging.