As of 26 October 2020, there have been 830,405 reported confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa. While case numbers continue to grow, it is at a much slower pace than previous months, with a two per cent increase in active cases, along with a six per cent increase in recoveries. However, in South Africa, host to 94 per cent of cases in the region, there are widespread concerns over a ‘second wave’ of infections as observance of social distancing and mask-wearing is becoming lax. Across the region, governments continue to ease restrictions that were put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as lifting lockdowns and movement restrictions including opening of international borders, and reopening schools, shops, and other businesses. In most cases, basic prevention measures, such as mask wearing, screening and hand sanitizing in public spaces remain in place.
UNHCR continues working closely with governments, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies and NGOs to promote and secure the inclusion of people of concern into preparedness and response measures for COVID-19. Given the serious impacts that COVID-19 regulations have had on livelihoods and economic opportunities, including for people of concern – refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced people (IDPs) and stateless peoples – in social safety nets and other social assistance programmes is particularly critical.
Throughout the pandemic, UNHCR and partners have committed to a ‘stay and deliver’ approach, continuing to provide critical protection services and assistance. Programmes have been adapted to observe social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures, health protocols are in place at registration and distribution points, hotlines and community protection structures are utilized to report protection issues and assistance needs. UNHCR has focused heavily on risk communication and outreach efforts to spread information about COVID-19 prevention and services. Health systems strengthening has also been a priority, by equipping health centres and training health workers, and establishing isolation and quarantine centres to reduce the risk of transmission, particularly in camps. Additional handwashing facilities have been installed and additional soap has been distributed to promote good hygiene practices and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. UNHCR has also been providing cash assistance and core relief items (CRIs) to those worst impacted by lockdowns and other restrictions, while children and youth have been supported with virtual and distance learning to continue with their studies.
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees