Aid workers this week confirmed several cases of COVID-19 in Sudan's camps for refugees who fled the fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray Region. The United Nations refugee agency and aid group Mercy Corps say an urgent intervention is needed to avoid a humanitarian disaster.
Aid organizations reported four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sudan's Um Rakouba camp for Ethiopian refugees this week.
The camp houses 25,000 people who have arrived since November, living in very basic, overcrowded conditions that present an opportunity for the coronavirus to easily spread.
Mercy Corps is running a health clinic in the Um Rakouba camp and has treated nearly 5,000 refugees. The group’s regional director Sean Granville-Ross called for swift and decisive action to prevent further spread of the virus.
“It’s a matter of great concern for all of us — the conditions of the camp, the vulnerability of the people, the population density which make social distancing very difficult,” said Granville-Ross. "And the lack of materials, PPE and equipment to enable us to really mange this outbreak and take care of people."
The four people confirmed to have COVID-19 have been quarantined, says UNHCR officer Guilia Raffaelli.
“Confirmed positive cases undergo isolation and, upon contact tracing, primary contacts observe quarantine, pending their test results. More activities are being set up – such as communication with communities and the realization of isolation centers – and more funding is needed in order to ramp up the response,” said Raffaelli.
Sudanese authorities received aid from UAE and other Arab countries to help the Ethiopian refugees in December.
Health observers say more money is needed due to the increasing influx and the growing risk of COVID-19.
Sudan has registered more than 23,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since late October, with more than 2,000 deaths.
Meanwhile, Sudan’s government and aid organizations have finished preparations to move the refugees to a new camp west of Al-Qadarif. The government says the move will take refugees away from the tense border area and improve security.
This story has been amended to clarify the statement made by Guilia Raffaelli.