COVID-19 SPECIAL: Pakistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan

Distribution of hand washing barrels as part of the COVID-19 response in Aysaita refugee camp in Afar, Ethiopia Distribution of hand washing barrels as part of the COVID-19 response in Aysaita refugee camp in Afar, Ethiopia © GOAL


In Focus by Silvia Luminati; Editor: Aleksandra Krol

 1. Pakistan

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan has issued a statement directed towards the international community informing it of the development of a “humanitarian crisis” among Afghan refugees residing in its territory. Currently, Pakistan hosts 2.8 million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees. Pakistan’s government has requested support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) to assist the refugees who live in 52 shelter camps. The help currently provided by the UNHCR and the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees focuses on the areas concerning  health, water and sanitation in refugee villages. According to official statistics, so far Pakistan reported nearly 8 000 COVID-19 cases. 


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2. Ethiopia

Ethiopia has so far reported 108 COVID-19 cases, all of which occurred outside the refugee camps. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), it is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in Africa with 758 199 refugees and asylum seekers . In response to the crisis, the UNHCR works towards rising community awareness to prevent the potential spread of the pandemic inside the camps as well as provides the communities with  soap and medical supplies. However, earlier this month, the Ethiopian authorities announced the relocation of 26 000 Eritrean refugees residing in the Hitsats camp, including 1 600 minors,  to Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps. In a statement released by UNHCR, the UN Agency urged the government to halt the plan as “any large-scale movement now will expose the refugees to risk of COVID-19 outbreak in camps”.


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3. South Sudan

The COVID-19 outbreak has arrived in South Sudan which has only four ventilators available for 11 million people. The regional spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross said that the weakness of the national health system heightened anxieties: “then you have this healthcare system that has suffered from decades of under-investment and the conflict that has basically left people with little healthcare at best”. In addition, aid organizations warn of the potentially disastrous consequences of the epidemic among 1.6 million of internally displaced people who have found refuge in overcrowded camps.


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