The ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to threaten neighbouring countries including Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia. UNICEF continues to play a key role in the UN wide Ebola prevention and preparedness response, reaching more than 65,000 people with key Ebola messages and EVD prevention supplies.
More than 25,000 children have been vaccinated against measles and approximately 60, 000 refugees and host community members accessed safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.
Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia host almost 530,000 refugees and asylum seekers, largely from Burundi and the DRC. UNICEF and partners ensured quality and equity-based education for more than 112,000 refugee children in Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia.
UNICEF continues to strengthen community surveillance and referral systems through active case management of acute malnutrition throughout the region. From January to March, 548 children were admitted for treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Eswatini, Tanzania and Zambia, including 376 refugee children with SAM in Tanzania.
Regional Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR) is affected by recurrent disasters that are undermining the hard-fought development gains of recent years and resulting in major social and economic setbacks. In Eswatini, Lesotho, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia - the countries covered by this report- more than 1.6 million people, including over 790,000 children, are in need of humanitarian assistance due to climate-related shocks, health emergencies and displacement.
The Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the DRC continues to threaten neighbouring countries. As 1 April, more than 1100 people have been infected with the disease, including over 692 deaths since the outbreak was declared on 1 August 2018 (WHO). The response to the outbreak has been hampered by insecurity, frequent movement of people in the affected areas, and resistance from some communities, creating a high-risk of cross border transmission into neighbouring countries in the region. In response to this risk, UNICEF, along with the UNCTs, intensified preparedness levels against Ebola importation in Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan and Rwanda (priority one countries) and Angola, Tanzania and Zambia (priority two countries). Rwanda has 10 districts bordering the DRC and Uganda, and there are more than 10,000 daily travelers between Goma and Rwanda resulting in a high level of risk. During the reporting period, EVD was contained to the DRC and no confirmed cases in the ESAR.
Displacement continues to drive high assistance needs with 4.1 million refugees in the region - 25% of the total global refugee population. South Sudan and Burundi are the main sources of origin for refugees in ESA, while Uganda, Ethiopia, Angola, Tanzania and Rwanda are the main host countries. Armed conflict and political instability in South Sudan, Burundi and the DRC has led to growing humanitarian needs for children and their families, who have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries. Almost 60 per cent of the refugee population are children across the region. Between January and March, some 17,843 Congolese fled to neighbouring countries, with a significant increase in refugee flows to Uganda (UNHCR).
By March 2019, Tanzania hosted 325,291 refugees and asylum seekers. Of these, 282,650 are hosted in three refugee camps in Kigoma region (Nduta, Mtendeli and Nyarugusu), while 42,000 reside in villages and settlements across northwestern Tanzania. The majority of the refugees are Burundians (198,177 who have sought asylum in Tanzania since 2015). This number is added to the caseload of 84,473 refugees from DRC, many of whom have lived in Tanzania for the past 20 years. Fifty six percent of the refugee population are children under 18 years, and children under five comprise 20 per cent of the refugee population. Additionally, there are more than 7,500 unaccompanied and separated children in the camps receiving protection services. Tanzania has not received new asylum seekers from Burundi in either 2018 or 2019, which may be due to the continuing restrictions on access to territory since 2017, including closure of all border entry and reception points for Burundian asylum seekers in 2018.
Voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees resumed in February 2019, after a temporary hold in mid-December 2018 due to lack of resources. The number of refugees registering for voluntary repatriation has decreased in 2019, with more than 50 per cent retractions, no shows and convoy dropouts reported since November 2018. Since the beginning of the voluntary repatriation exercise in September 2017, a total of 61,342 Burundian refugees have been assisted to return and another 20,000 refugees have shown interest to return. During the reporting period, 5278 Burundi refugees were returned to Burundi from Tanzania through the assisted repatriation programme.
According to UNHCR, there were 148,323 total refugees and asylum seekers in Rwanda as of 31 March. Of the total, 70,570 are individually registered Burundian refugees, while 75,212 are from the DRC. In addition, there were 642 groupregistered Burundian refugees and 1,848 Congolese asylum seekers. From January to March, there were 834 new arrivals (UNHCR). Children makeup 49 per cent of the Burundian refugee population. The Government of Rwanda established Mahama Refugee Camp in April 2015, which hosts 59,319 Burundian refugees, making it the largest refugee camp in Rwanda. In addition, there are over 12,000 Burundian refugees in the urban areas of Kigali and Huye.
By the end of March, there were 78,938 persons of concern 56,082 refugees and asylum seekers in Zambia (UNHCR). Of these, 45,805 are from the DRC and are 14,136 registered refugees (58 percent are children) residing in Mantampala settlement. Following the relative peace after the presidential election in the DRC, the number of refugees in Mantapala refugee settlement has remained stable with only 36 new arrivals in 2019. A smaller number of refugees and asylum seekers are from Burundi (5,583) and Somalia (3,262).
Food insecurity in southern Africa started atypically as early as September 2018 in some countries due to the poor 2018 harvest from prolonged dry spells during the second half of the 2017/2018 rainy season. Prolonged seasonal rainfall deficits since the beginning of the southern African monsoon have negatively impacted the grounds of many countries in the region, including southern Angola, northern Namibia, southern Zambia, and northern Zimbabwe. Many areas across the region are experiencing Crisis and Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and 4) outcomes. October 2018 to March 2019 IPC Regional Map showed areas of concern as southern Malawi, most of Zimbabwe, Grand Sud of Madagascar, southern Mozambique, western Zambia, southern Lesotho, and eastern Eswatini.
According to the findings of the November 2018 IPC assessment in Lesotho, an estimated 325,318 people (273,635 people in rural areas and 51,683 people in urban areas) are in need of humanitarian assistance. In the same period, Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing districts were projected to be IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) or higher while the other six districts were projected to be in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed). Due to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, the Government of Lesotho and partners undertook a rapid needs assessment in March 2019. The first set of results showed that 487,857 people (407,191 in rural areas and 80,666 in urban areas) are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, especially in the WASH, Health, Nutrition, Child Protection and HIV/AIDS sectors. Furthermore, 640,000 people in rural and urban areas are projected to be food insecure during the period July 2019-June 2020. According to the Lesotho Meteorological Services, in the period March-May 2019, below-normal rainfall is projected, further increasing the possibility of a negative impact on the winter planting and harvest.
In Eswatini, the 2018/2019 seasonal projection by the Department of Meteorology indicated normal to below normal rainfall from January to March 2019. However, cyclone activity along the Mozambican channel (peaking in January to February) influenced the weather pattern, which resulted in above normal rainfall, with national rivers reaching full capacity. With the current rainfall addressing drought projections, the Government focus has been on food insecurity as a result of limited crops. Food security remains a high priority with children at risk of severe acute malnutrition. The June 2018 Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (VAA) report found that 165,723 people (79,547 children) are faced with acute food insecurity in the lean season.
In Zambia, the 2018/2019 season rainfall forecast was largely influenced by weak state of the El Nino Southern Oscillation and the country faced prolonged dry spell conditions especially in southern and western Zambia representing 51 out of 110 districts in Zambia. This impacted negatively on water supply and crop condition especially on the rural farming households; with projection of increased basic food prices, poor harvest for subsistence farmers, depletion of animal stock and drying of sources of water for humans and animals.