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UNHCR COVID-19 Response: Southern Africa, 1 - 30 June 2021

RD del Congo
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  • Since UNHCR’s COVID-19 response began in Southern Africa in March 2020
  • 2.8 million people reached through COVID-19 risk communication
  • 2.2 million individuals received soap to promote handwashing and reduce the spread of COVID-19
  • 131 government health facilities and 36 camp and settlement- based health facilities supported

Population Figures
7,576,742 people of concern to UNHCR in Southern Africa, including
763,119 refugees and 315,579 asylum- seekers
6,461,380 internally displaced persons (IDPs)
36,664 other people of concern
(as of 31 May 2021)

Operational Context

As of 29 June 2021, the region reported 2,590,902 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa. This represents an increase of 409,901 recorded cases in June, and a 204 per cent increase in the number of active cases from the previous month. Countries including Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have reported an increase in COVID-19 rates, with some governments announcing the arrival of the “third wave”. To combat the rising case numbers, COVID-19 prevention measures and restrictions have been continued or tightened in many of the affected countries. Additionally, arrival of the Delta variant has been confirmed in the region, including in the DRC, South Africa, and Zambia.

UNHCR and partners have maintained protection services and other life-saving assistance throughout the COVID- 19 pandemic. Mitigation measures are in place at registration and distribution points, and hotlines and community structures support protection case management. UNHCR continues to focus on risk communication and awareness-raising to increase understanding about COVID-19, encourage compliance with prevention measures, and inform about available services. Health systems strengthening continues to be a priority, equipping health centres, training health workers, and establishing isolation and quarantine centres. Additional handwashing facilities continue to be installed and maintained, and additional soap continues to be distributed. UNHCR is also providing cash assistance and core relief items (CRIs) to those worst impacted by COVID-19 and related restrictions. Where schools have been closed, children and youth have been supported with virtual and distance learning, and as schools re-open they have been supported to implement COVID-19 preventive measures.

UNHCR is working closely with governments, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies and non- governmental organizations to secure the inclusion of persons of concern to UNHCR – refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs, and stateless persons – into preparedness and response measures for COVID-19. Given the impacts on livelihoods and economic opportunities, UNHCR advocates for people of concern to UNHCR to be included into social safety nets and other social assistance programmes for COVID-19. Most countries in the region have been rolling out COVID-19 vaccination programmes. Following advocacy and engagement with governments, 11 countries have confirmed in June that refugees have access to vaccines, including Botswana, DRC, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of the Congo (RoC), Zambia and Zimbabwe. While it is more difficult to track vaccination for persons of concern to UNHCR living in urban areas, countries such as South Africa have committed to including them in the national vaccination campaign alongside nationals.