UNHCR steps up COVID-19 prevention measures for refugees in Africa

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South Sudanese refugees practice social distancing as they wait to access a food distribution at Kakuma camp in Kenya. © UNHCR/Samuel Otieno
South Sudanese refugees practice social distancing as they wait to access a food distribution at Kakuma camp in Kenya. © UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is ramping up efforts to increase capacity to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 among refugee communities across Africa.

To date there have been no confirmed cases amongst refugees, asylum-seekers or internally displaced people in the region,but the need to be prepared is urgent, says UNHCR

The refugee body is actively engaged with Ministries of Health and other government authorities, and the World Health Organization, on the inclusion of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people (IDPs) in national response plans.

A number of countries in the region already have exemplary policies in place that allow refugees to access public health-care services.

The pandemic is having a severe impact on refugees’ abilities to work and generate income. Many refugees have seen the business they run or work for, often as day workers, forced to close. Those who rely on cross-border trade have been particularly impacted.

UNHCR is also advocating to governments to ensure refugees are included in any emergency social protection schemes, while also exploring possibilities to provide the most vulnerable with one-off cash assistance to help meet basic needs.

The outbreak comes on the top of existing emergency conditions in the region, where 60 per cent of refugees are experiencing food ration cuts due to underfunding.

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