COVID-19 SPECIAL : Uganda, Libya, Philippines

Libyan soldiers wearing masks during a military operation in Tripoli Libyan soldiers wearing masks during a military operation in Tripoli © Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

In Focus by Silvia Luminati; Editor: Aleksandra Krol

1. Uganda

Uganda hosts more than 1.5 million refugees, mainly from the neighbouring South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. On 25 March, Ugandan authorities announced the suspension of admission of new refugees for a month to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. With regard to the state of preparedness of Uganda, a spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) criticised  the insufficient number of intensive care units and equipment in refugee settlements. Moreover, while unhindered access to clean water and isolation facilities is critical, health facilities in the camps remain overcrowded . In parallel, the World Food Program is working to respond to the food needs of communities in settlements.


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2. Libya

At the end of March, the Tripoli-based government and the Libyan National Army (LNA) entered into a ceasefire agreement, following the call from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. However, the unrest in Libya was again flared up a few days later when, on Monday 6 April, a shelling hit the Al-Khandra Hospital in Tripoli. As a result, Yacoub El Hillo, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, urged the parties to seek a lasting ceasefire since “if Libya is to have any chance against COVID-19, the ongoing conflict must come to an immediate halt”. As of 8 April, 21 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed which only emphasises the danger of the collapse of the already fragile health system under the burden of the spread of the epidemic. Moreover, according to the UN Support Mission in Libya, an estimated 893,000 people are in need of health assistance and nearly 749,000 live in conflict-affected areas.


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 3. Philippines

In March, President Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of Philippines, to focus on the COVID-19 fight.  The communist guerrillas consented to the ceasefire until April 15. According to the NPA’s statement, the truce is an act of solidarity that will bring relief to the communities most prone to vulnerabilities and ensure medical assistance to people residing in the Philippines. As of 8 April, national authorities have confirmed a total of 3,870 COVID-19 cases.


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