COVID-19: Ethiopia to quarantine over 20,000 street dwellers

Saturday April 11 2020

Cleaning staff disinfect for a metro carriage as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 20, 2020. PHOTO | MICHAEL TEWELDE | AFP

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle


One day after Ethiopia declared a five-month long state of emergency, the country on Thursday began activities to rehabilitate thousands of homeless people in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among the homeless living outdoors.

The move comes as the horn of Africa’s nation lately starts to report high numbers of Covid-19 cases daily since the country announced its first Coronavirus case on 13 March.

On Friday, Ethiopia has reported nine new Covid-19 cases; record-high number recorded so far in one day, since the country announced first virus case on 13 March.

The additional cases have brought the total number of confirmed Covid-19 patients in Ethiopia to 65.

The latest rehabilitation programme for the homeless is part of the country’s nation-wide response measures to avert the spread of the pandemic.


Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Ethiopia on Thursday have signed partnership agreements with four charity organisations to effect the rehabilitation programme.

Once lifted from the streets, the thousands of homeless people will first be taken to designated quarantine centers where they will stay for two-weeks and undergo Covid-19 screen tests.

Once tested negative for Covid-19, the beneficiaries will be dispatched to different rehabilitation centres where they will be provided basic needs and other social services.

The first round of the rehabilitation programme will be done in11 major cities across the country, according to a source from the Ministry of Labor and Social affairs.

“We are lifting the homeless because they can't self-quarantine and their shelters doesn’t allow them to maintain social distancing” the source told Nation.

“We are rehabilitating them in a bid to contain spread among the unhoused people and for the sake of the public health” it added noting the highly infectious nature of the Virus.

In the capital, Addis Ababa, some 4,200 street dwellers will be lifted in the next few days.

On Thursday, 3,204 homeless people were taken off from the streets of Addis Ababa to quarantine centers, according to the source.

Nation has learnt that a total of 22,000 homeless people residing in the capital and in 11 major cities will be lifted in the first round of the rehabilitation program.

As the coronavirus spreads, the homeless people remain to be among the most vulnerable to infection hence their living status doesn’t allow them to apply the most necessary virus-fighting directive, stay indoors.

The homeless people in Addis Ababa live at sidewalks in the street or at crowded shelters.

For such group of people, once virus begins to spread, it will be difficult to avert it.

It will also undermine all the preventive efforts which had been undergoing to slow the spread of Covid-19.

According to government figures, currently there are around 86,000 homeless people across the country.