Luanda, Angola — THE global refugee agency is alert to the threat of xenophobia caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Southern Africa.
Largely a peaceful region, Southern Africa suffers sporadic outbreak of anti-migrant sentiment, with South Africa the epicentre.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said following the COVID-19, lost income as a result of limitations on movement and economic activity had resulted in the number of people requesting assistance from the organisation increasing significantly.
UNHCR said at the same time, reports of rising xenophobia and stigmatisation of refugees had been noted in the region.
“This impacting on the physical safety of people of concern as well as social cohesion and peaceful coexistence with local communities,” UNHCR stated from Angola.
Angola is the region’s second biggest economy after South Africa.
UNHCR said the tensions were not limited to health stigmatisation but also linked to increasing economic pressures in refugee-hosting areas amid the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions.
UNHCR is working with governments, the World Health Organisation (WHO), other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to secure the inclusion of refugees, displaced people and other marginalised communities.
This is in preparedness and response measures for COVID-19.
As of this past weekend, there were a reported 653 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 16 countries covered by UNHCR’s bureau for Southern Africa.
This represented a 15 percent increase in cases over two weeks.
South Africa has over 90 percent of reported cases in the region but they have been dropping.