According to UNHCR, as of mid-2020 the Republic of Congo (RoC)–which is facing the double threat of COVID-19 and Ebola–was hosting 43,656 refugees and asylum seekers and 304,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Refugees and asylum seekers are primarily from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic, and Rwanda.
On March 15, 2020, the first positive case of COVID-19 was reported. As of 31 January 2021, the RoC had recorded 7,887 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 117 deaths.
The government’s COVID-19 response included the establishment of a State of Health Emergency on 31 March 2020 and nationwide lockdown measures from 1 April 2020, which included movement restrictions, curfews, and shutdowns of schools and non-essential businesses. UNHCR reported that asylum seekers and refugees faced difficulties coping with surging food prices and decreased business activity, depriving people of their incomes, as well as the geographic inaccessibility of COVID-19 testing sites.
UNHCR’s health-related activities included: “[installing] 20 refugee housing units (RHUs) at the Bouemba site to serve as a reception centre for suspected COVID19 cases, equipping the facilities with beds, water supply and latrines. In Gamboma, UNHCR also supported the rehabilitation of the COVID-19 patients isolation site. Overall, UNHCR equipped and supported 8 health centres during the COVID-19 response, as well as established four isolation and quarantine centres, with room for a total of 60 patients. UNHCR also equipped an additional three isolation centres in areas hosting refugees and asylum-seekers.” The refugee agency also gave out core relief items and cash assistance to vulnerable populations.
In September 2020, a meeting on preventing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in private places took place with the participation of civil society, humanitarian actors, the penitentiary, and doctors, amongst others. At the meeting, the Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture in Congo (ACAT) and its International Federation (FIACAT) called for improved conditions for prisoners in the country in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. They denounced the conditions in prisons, which include poor health, transport, drinking water, and electricity provision. The director general of the prison administration also conducted a presentation on the problems of managing the response to COVID-19, where he stated that as soon as positive cases were reported in the country, a crisis unit was set up as part of the strategy against the virus in prisons (maisons d’arrêt). He further claimed that no new detainees had been received in the prisons (maisons d’arrêt) and outlined the activities within the centres. These included employing detainees in making masks, the continued education and preparation for state exams, as well as the disinfection and fumigation of centres.
On 28 January 2021, the RoC’s National Human Rights Commission and the UNDP held a seminar in which they launched a human rights monitoring platform, responsible for documenting and disseminating material on human rights, as well as training librarians and archivists. The president of the National Human Rights Commission said that the platform would serve the monitoring of recommendations made by the Universal Periodic Review, CEDAW and other international mechanisms for the protection of human rights. It is not yet clear to what extent this monitoring mechanism will seek to review the treatment of refugees and other vulnerable non-citizens in the country.
- UNHCR, “Fact Sheet: Republic of the Congo, August 2020,” 13 November 2020, https://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/UNHCR%20RoC%20Fact%20Sheet%20August%202020.pdf
- UNHCR, “Southern Africa COVID-19 Response, March – September 2020,” 9 November 2020, https://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/UNHCR%20Southern%20Africa%20COVID-19%20Six-Month%20Report_0.pdf
- IMF, “Policy responses to COVID-19,” 8 January 2021, https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19#C
- Our World in Data, “Congo: Coronavirus Pandemic Country Profile,” https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus/country/congo?country=~COG
- L.G. Oko, “COVID-19 : Plaidoyer pour la Lutte contre la Maladie en Milieu Carcéral,” Agence d’Information d’Afrique centrale, 29 September 2020, https://www.adiac-congo.com/content/covid-19-plaidoyer-pour-la-lutte-contre-la-maladie-en-milieu-carceral-120138
- F. Ibara, “Droits de l’Homme : le Congo crée un Centre de Documentation,” Agence d’Information d’Afrique Centrale, 29 January 2021, https://www.adiac-congo.com/content/droits-de-lhomme-le-congo-cree-un-centre-de-documentation-123773
- T. Bosley, “La CNDH et le PNUD Congo lancent la plateforme de Monitoring des droits de l’homme,” PANORAMIK-ACTU, 29 January 2021, http://panoramik-actu.com/la-cndh-et-le-pnud-congo-lance-la-plateforme-de-monitoring-des-droits-de-lhomme/
- NHRC and UNDP Training Seminar in Brazzaville on 28 January 2021, (T. Bosley, “La CNDH et le PNUD Congo Lancent la Plateforme de Monitoring des Droits de l’Homme,” Panoramik-Actu, 29 Janvier 2021, http://panoramik-actu.com/la-cndh-et-le-pnud-congo-lance-la-plateforme-de-monitoring-des-droits-de-lhomme/)