IOM Zimbabwe marks the return of over 200 000 migrants since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic.

Apr 09, 2021

HARARE- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Zimbabwe this week marks the return of over 200 000 Migrant returnees since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The Migrants, mostly from the SADC region, were heavily impacted by COVID-19 within their host countries due to loss of jobs and sources of livelihoods following the enforcement of COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures by governments. IOM supported the Government of Zimbabwe’s National COVID-19 emergency response by reaching most of these returnees with assistance through the different pillars (Coordination and Partnership, Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), disease surveillance, Points of Entry (PoEs), Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Protection, Temporary Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Reintegration Assistance.

IOM has presence at four (previously eight) PoEs across the country. At each of these border posts, IOM established isolation facilities with a total of 17 dedicated health personnel providing basic health care services and 24 enumerators registering and profiling returnees. IOM also supported 29 COVID-19 quarantine sites and installed 108 handwashing stations at PoEs and surrounding areas to promote adherence to COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures. IOM has to date distributed hundreds of thousands of articles of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for both frontline border officials and returning migrants and reached over 180 000 migrants through Risk Communication and Engagement campaigns. 1390 Migrants and front-line officials have benefitted from Mental Health and Psychosocial services (MHPSS) provided in collaboration with Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare at border level.  To cater to the immediate needs of vulnerable migrants 4430 non-food item, 5610 hygiene, 2410 menstrual hygiene management and 2725 agricultural kits have been distributed. IOM has also provided 2665 beneficiaries with onward transportation from the borders to various destinations across the country. To address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, 4877 beneficiaries have been reached with cash-based assistance and 1226 returning migrants and others in their communities have been provided with Conservation Agriculture Gardening Skills Training. These interventions have been made possible through the support of government and funding support of dedicated donors.

To continue with activities to strengthen COVID-19 preparedness and response capacities well into 2021 and to promote socio-economic reintegration through self-employment, community income projects and livelihood activities, IOM Zimbabwe’s 2021 Crisis Response Plan was recently launched. The overall appeal for US$38.9 million and targeting over 1.7 million beneficiaries, provides an overview of planned activities and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement. Of this funding at least US$10 million will be earmarked to address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on migrant returnees.

Marking the milestone of 200 000 returns, IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Mario Lito Malanca acknowledged that the number of returnees far exceeded projections and demonstrates the massive impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have on the region. “While the level of support we and our partners have provided Migrant returnees is commendable, we must remember that they [migrants] are returning to communities that are often ill-equipped to accommodate them. We must, as a matter of urgency, consider and implement interventions that will cushion returning migrants from the negative socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while providing for sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their home communities. Without these measures, we will see many falling deeper into crisis, resorting to negative copying mechanisms, and possibly being forced to migrate once again through irregular means,” Malanca said.