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UNHCR Asia and the Pacific COVID-19 External Update (9 April 2021)

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Highlights by country

Regional

Eleven countries in Asia-Pacific are COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment countries and will be receiving vaccines through the COVAX facility free of charge for 20% of their population. Afghanistan and Nepal have received consignments of COVID-19 vaccine doses (468,000 and 348,000 doses respectively) through the COVAX facility

South-West Asia

Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan has received 968,000 doses (500,000 doses from India and 468,000 doses received through COVAX) and vaccinated 484,000 persons. The World Bank has also approved USD 60 million from the International Development Association to help Afghanistan purchase COVID-19 vaccines, as well as additional financing of USD 113 million, which will help reach more than 17% of Afghans. Further support from the Asian Development Bank is expected to fund the purchase of vaccines for an additional 11% of the Afghan people.

  • 7 out of 11 COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan detected a new variant, which is reportedly more contagious. Commercial domestic and international flights nonetheless continue to operate. Borders have also remained open and enabled the implementation of activities under the Voluntary Repatriation programme.

  • Of the 300,000 disposable face masks donated to Afghanistan by the Republic of Korea, UNHCR handed 150,000 masks on 28 March to the Ministry of Public Health for professionals and workers in isolation wards, ICU units and laboratories in isolation centres. The remaining 150,000 face masks will be distributed to vulnerable refugees, displaced persons and host communities across the country.

Islamic Republic of Iran

  • On 10 March, at a joint meeting attended by UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, MoH, MFA and BAFIA, the Government reconfirmed its commitment to include foreigners (including refugees and undocumented Afghans) in the national COVID vaccination drive. However, there are challenges with availability and supply of vaccines to Iran, and efforts will be made by concerned parties to secure vaccines.

  • Refugee children continue to study from home in Iran. To address the lack of ICT equipment, UNHCR procured 21,500 tablets and is working with the Government on a distribution plan.

Pakistan

  • The inclusion of refugees in the Government’s vaccination program has been confirmed. The first meeting of the Technical Working Group for refugee inclusion was held on 5 March. The Government indicated that the PoR card could be used in the registration system instead of the national identity card number used by Pakistani nationals. A strategy to vaccinate the unregistered population will be discussed once the vaccination for the eligible PoR card holders is completed.

  • The National Command and Operation Centre stepped up the vaccination drive and imposed stricter measures across the country to control the spike in infections during the third wave of the pandemic.
    According to the Government, some 800,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered.

  • The Documentation Renewal and Identity Verification Exercise (DRIVE) in Pakistan, which was due to commence on 1 April, was postponed to 15 April due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country. A press release announcing the postponement was issued, and messages, including audio 9.2 million Persons of concern 4.4 million Refugees and Asylum seekers 3.3 million Internally displaced persons 85,446 Returnees 2.3 million Stateless persons www.unhcr.org 2 recordings in Dari, Pashto and Urdu, were posted on social media and/or transmitted by WhatsApp to refugee networks.

  • The Humanitarian Response Plan is in the final stages of agreement with the Government. The refugee chapter remains relatively unchanged but a separate chapter has been included to provide focused support for Afghan Citizen Card Holders and Undocumented Afghans.