Contribution to the UNHCR's activities in Tunisia 2021
The objective of UNHCR’s Programme is to protect and assist refugees and asylum seekers Amid COVID-19 in Tunisia.
Under its 2021 COVID-19 response, UNHCR aims to achieve the following key results:
- Multi-purpose cash assistance increased. UNHCR will expand unrestricted financial assistance to up to 6,000 POCs to address socio-economic and protection impacts of COVID-19; in particular, to preserve their abilities to meet their food and other basic needs such as medication and rent, especially for those most vulnerable.
- Infection prevention and control measures and access to primary health care enhanced. UNHCR will ensure continuous access to medical consultation; distribution of core relief items, such as hygiene kits and supplies; and provision of additional cleaning equipment/services in shelter facilities.
- Individual psychosocial support provided. UNHCR will scale up mental health and psychological support services for all POCs in need, while maintaining and strengthening other core protection activities and prioritizing those at risk such as women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities.
- Risk communication and community engagement strengthened. UNHCR will ensure all POCs have access to timely and accurate information on prevention, physical distancing and general hygiene practices using existing and new communication tools with an emphasis on two-way communication and adapting materials and messaging to suit linguistic and cultural needs.
- Capacity-development supported. UNHCR will continue to work with cities and municipalities that host refugees and asylum seekers and that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis to secure and expand POCs and host communities’ access to existing basic services.
Austria's contribution of EUR 2,000,000 will allow UNHCR Tunisia to reach a maximum of 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers (62% men; 38% women and including 25% children).
The project will target all regions of Tunisia where the currently 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers (or persons of concern – POCs) registered with UNHCR Tunisia are hosted. While they are present in almost of the 24 governorates of the country, 80% of them have streamed into urban and peri-urban areas in the regions of Great Tunis, Sfax and Medenine.
UNHCR Tunisia will rely on existing partnerships with three national NGOs to implement project activities, namely the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) and the Tunisian Council for Refugees (CTR). In parallel, all activities are planned and implemented in close collaboration with central (ministries) and local level (governors, municipalities, regional directorates) government counterparts with whom UNHCR entertains close and positive relationships.
Activities may include:
- COVID-related cash assistance will be delivered to up to 6,000 POCs registered with UNHCR using existing distribution modalities, namely through the Tunisian Post Office.
- Preventive health measures will continue to be put in place in the three UNHCR-managed hosting centres and in urban areas including regular disinfection of premises; presence of one medical doctor and one nurse at each centre; awareness-raising sessions; renting of four apartments for isolation cases. Hygiene kits and supplies such as hand sanitizer, gloves, disinfectant and face masks will be distributed to all POCs. Also, training of UNHCR’s partner case workers will be conducted focused on COVID-19 awareness, including transmission and preventive measures.
- Mental health and psychosocial support and/or legal advice will be provided through the recruitment of five psychologists, strengthening identification and management of mental health conditions, including assistance to survivors of GBV, unaccompanied and/or separated children, and other emergency protection cases.
- Harmonized messaging, and community feedback will be systematically collected in line with COVID-19 country approaches. This may include collaborating with community and religious leaders; utilizing existing community-based protection as well as existing feedback mechanisms (beneficiary organisations, hotlines, Facebook pages, SMS messaging); developing and disseminating, audio-visual materials on awareness in appropriate languages, using harmonized visual materials like posters, banners, arts, murals, video, animation etc.
- Local authorities will be supported by responding to critical needs jointly identified with UNHCR teams, including through the procurement of health equipment and materials.
Tunisia has become a major regional hub for mixed population movements, with a steady increase in new arrivals, from 6,000+ refugees and asylum seekers currently registered with UNHCR to up to 10,000 individuals projected by the end of 2021, largely driven by insecurity in Libya and weak protection and insufficient assistance in first countries of asylum. UNHCR has witnessed growing numbers from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya but also from Cote d’Ivoire and Mali. Most are young single men and woman who have transited through sub-Saharan countries and Libya before reaching Tunisia. In view of the alarmingly high incidence of human rights violations, significant trauma, lack of rights, loss of assets, and short planning horizon – they form a particularly vulnerable group. Many persons of concern perceive Tunisia as a transit country in their intention to reach Europe. Despite law enforcement efforts by Tunisian authorities, this trend is likely to continue, not least because of the worsening economic situation, rising unemployment and destitution. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing and on-going vulnerabilities, leading to income loss, reduced household purchasing power and increasing protection risks for refugees and asylum seekers. The latest evidence shows the deep and hard-hitting economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on these populations. Some 85% of those surveyed between April and May 2020 reported having no income; 100% of the respondents declared no longer being able to pay rent, while 60% were at imminent risk of eviction. Not being included in national social safety nets that have been established for local populations, many of them are forced to become increasingly dependent on humanitarian assistance for their health, shelter, food, and protection needs. The impact of the pandemic is also resulting in a dramatic increase in mental health needs and incidents of stigmatization. The lack of livelihoods opportunities and unavailability of work will be the main difficulties most vulnerable POCs will face in the coming period. Furthermore, the onset of COVID-19 crisis has also dangerously strained national and local capacities across refugee-hosting regions. With more refugees struggling to make ends meet, tensions with host communities are likely to increase, especially in communities depending on government assistance. While Tunisians have shown considerable generosity in hosting refugees, the socio-economic costs incurred are perceived as increasingly prohibitive. In Tunisia, only 5% of persons of concern receive multi-purpose cash assistance, the length of the assistance varies between 3 months for the temporary assistance to 6 months or 12 for the most vulnerable. Limited access to services remains the main push factor towards dangerous onward movements to Libya and Europe.