Ziadeh is one of more than 300 refugees and asylum-seekers who have received COVID vaccines across Egypt.
Refaat Ziadeh, 59, a refugee from Syria, never thought he would be one of the first refugees to receive the COVID vaccine in Egypt, but as Egypt started vaccine rollout nationwide earlier this year, refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR have been included in the Government’s national response plan.
“I had not initially realized at first that my family is eligible to register to receive the vaccine using our UNHCR identification documents until one of the doctors at Caritas – [UNHCR implementing partner for primary healthcare] – informed me,” said Ziadeh.
In Egypt, UNHCR is mandated by the Government of Egypt to register asylum-seekers and determine refugee status since 1954. By providing a UNHCR identification document, UNHCR ensures that refugees and asylum-seekers can access an array of rights, including access to residence permits, access to services and protection against Refoulement.
“I was very reluctant at first but a few weeks after I recovered from a severe COVID infection that gravely affected my health and left me unemployed for a month, I registered myself and my entire family – there was no way I would survive another infection,” Ziadeh explained.
Only a few weeks went by before their appointment was confirmed and Ziadeh and his wife were greeted by a doctor at a vaccination center in their neighborhood who addressed their questions and dispelled many of the rumors spreading in their community. In less than 30 minutes, the couple had received their first inoculation free of charge.
“We are grateful to the Government of Egypt for their generosity in including refugees and asylum-seekers in the COVID national response plan, both healthcare and vaccination,” said Mr. Pablo Mateu, UNHCR Egypt Representative.
Ziadeh is one of more than 300 refugees and asylum-seekers who have received COVID vaccines across Egypt, following the Government’s plan to prioritize the elderly and individuals with chronic health conditions.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges globally and has rendered refugees and asylum seekers particularly vulnerable. UNHCR has been advocating for refugee inclusion in national vaccine roll outs worldwide because no one is safe until everyone is safe and this means leaving no one behind, including refugees and asylum-seekers,” added Mr. Mateu.
A refugee in Egypt for eight years with a chronic health condition, Ziadeh has been receiving medical support from UNHCR partners as well as from public healthcare facilities under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 between the Egyptian government and UNHCR that ensures that all refugees and asylum-seekers are granted access to healthcare on equal footing as Egyptian citizens.
In addition, refugees and asylum-seekers in Egypt are also included in national health initiatives such as the “100 Million Seha” campaign that aims at detecting and eradicating Hepatitis C in Egypt by 2023; the national anti-polio campaigns targeting children aged up to five years of age; and more recently, the Government’s early detection and rehabilitation of hearing deficit campaign rolled out in 1,346 health facilities across Egypt.
As of September 2021, Egypt hosts more than 265,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR from 60 nationalities. Most refugees in Egypt are among the most vulnerable groups, as seven out of 10 refugees struggle and are often unable to meet their basic needs. With the generous cooperation of the Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP), UNHCR, its partners and public healthcare providers ensure refugees and asylum seekers like Ziadeh and others are granted the necessary assistance and support to receive medical care at nominal cost.