Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest (Discontinued on 31 Aug 2020)

Situation Report
Ethiopia — Trends

Government scales up testing for COVID-19

  • First case: 13 March 2020

  • Total cases: 34,058 (as of 20 August 2020)

  • Total deaths: 600

  • Schools: Closed (24.5 million learners affected)

  • Flights/Borders: Although all land borders remain closed, except for essential goods, rail services are operational. The main airport has remained open for international flights. Addis Ababa is one of the hubs for the UNHAS global passenger air service for humanitarian and health workers to destinations not served commercially.

  • Containment measures: All passengers arriving in Ethiopia, with no negative COVID-19 test results (done up to 120 hours before) are placed in a mandatory quarantine at several designated sites for seven days, tested and then self-isolated at home for an additional seven days.


Since Ethiopia recorded its first COVID-19 infection on 13 March, 34,058 people contracted the virus and 600 died from the disease as of 20 August. The number of cases have doubled in the last 20 days. Concern over the likelihood of further spike is currently high given that 59 per cent of recent cases resulted through community transmission. According to the Government Emergency Operation Center (EOC), 85.6 per cent of the cases in the regions were asymptomatic and identified through screening in health centers. Among the newly confirmed COVID-19 patients, men seem to be most affected (69 per cent of cases), and the age group of 15-24 years. On 1 August, President Abiy Ahmed Ali announced a nationwide month long testing campaign. Addis Ababa had begun a COVID-19 surveillance survey to measure the prevalence of antibodies against COVID-19 in the general population and selected high risk populations, according to WHO Ethiopia.

The country declared a State of Emergency on 8 April for five months, closing schools and universities, banning public gatherings and requiring most employees to work from home. In addition, regional authorities have imposed strict measures limiting population movements within the regions, although the inter-regional public transports services across the country have resumed on 17 April. The COVID-19 prevention measures have impacted ongoing humanitarian operations, including COVID-19 response activities, according to partners in the country. Despite the challenges and some essential health services being disrupted, nearly 15 million children have been vaccinated against measles. While humanitarian organizations continue to work with authorities to establish the appropriate mechanism to enable the continuity of life-saving operations, an estimated 15 million people could experience food consumption gaps as a result of COVID-19, according to the Government’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) and the Food Cluster. The risk of transmissions and increased humanitarian need is especially high among the 1.7 million internally displaced people (IDP) living in collective sites or host communities across the country. Cases of intimidation related to the stigmatization of foreigners and Ethiopian diasporas in field locations have also been reported. In addition, thousands of Ethiopians have been deported, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan since the beginning of the outbreak, increasing challenges related to their reception and assistance.

COVID-19 arrived in Ethiopia at a time when more than 7 million people were already severely food insecure and struggling to meet their basic needs. The county has also been dealing with other outbreaks, including cholera and measles, putting more pressure on the already weak health system. Flooding due to above normal rainfall, especially in the second week of July, in the south western, western and central parts of the country continue to affect and displace people living along river basins. As of 10 August, 124,219 people were affected by flooding in Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Gambella, SNNP and Somali regions, of whom 53,158 people were displaced.


  • The Government of Ethiopia prepared a multi-sector national COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan for the next three months, appealing for US$ 1.76 billion.

  • At the Federal level, the multi-sector COVID-19 response is coordinated by the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) led by the Commissioner of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC). All humanitarian partners are supporting the centre.

  • At the country regional level, coordination centres have been established. NDRMC will be working to ensure that regional Coordination Forums mirror the Federal Coordination Mechanism.

  • The Government and partners are expanding quarantine and isolations centres to all points of entry (air and land) and major cities; extending the number of testing facilities to cover major cities; carrying out house-to-house COVID-19 surveillance and community awareness;

  • The humanitarian system reactivated the Logistics Cluster to coordinate demands for emergency COVID-19 supplies throughout the country.

  • On 14 April, the Government of Ethiopia and the World Food Program (WFP) opened the Addis Ababa Humanitarian Air Hub inside the Bole International Airport. COVID-19 supplies, equipment and humanitarian workers will be transported from the hub across 32 countries in Africa. The Addis Ababa Humanitarian Air hub is part of a United Nations initiative to scale up procurement and distribution of protective equipment and medical supplies for the COVID19 response.

Official sources:

Minister of Health Twitter and The Ministry of Health website

Other links:

Ethiopia COVID-19 Humanitarian impact

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Policy Response to COVID-19, by IMF