Displaced people at risk of Covid-19: UN

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Sindiso Mhlophe

THE United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed concern over the deplorable state of living conditions for internally displaced person (IDPs) in Cyclone Idai-affected areas, saying these are exposing them to the risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19).

This comes as the country’s Covid-19 cases are on the increase, with 356 cases having been recorded and 54 recoveries and four deaths to date.

OCHA said there was an urgent need to provide blankets for IDPs as the winter season has begun, to ensure that they have access to medical services and health facilities, and to increase mental health and psychosocial support tailored for Covid-19 distress.

“More than 43 000 people remain displaced in camps and host communities. Out of the total number of IDPs, 198 Cyclone Idai-affected households, 909 people, are living in four camps, where living conditions are exposing them to serious protection and health risks.

“As the winter season has begun, IDPs are being exposed to cold weather and put further at risk of contracting Covid-19,” OCHA said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need to establish adequate hygiene facilities and handwashing stations in camps and host communities.

“Identified health facilities in the districts do not have adequate resources and are located more than 40 kilometres away from IDP camps and main host communities, making it not feasible for IDPs to receive health care or treatment when needed,” OCHA added.

The humanitarian office further expressed concern over the deplorable state of quarantine centres housing returnees across the country, saying that this could be contributing to the spike in the country’s Covid-19 cases.

“As of June 9, a total of 6 892 migrants had returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries through nine points of entry since Covid-19 restrictive measures were imposed, with 222 additional returnees reported during the last week and 932 returnees a week earlier. The large majority of returnees entered through the points of entry of Beitbridge, and Plumtree.

“The number continues to increase daily, with a projection of 20 000 new arrivals in the next coming months. After arrival at the border post, returnees are transferred to provincial quarantine facilities nearest to their places of destination, most of which do not have adequate health and hygiene facilities to host returnees. More needs to be done to ensure that the returnees do not contract the coronavirus within and spread it within these quarantine centres,” OCHA.

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