More than 200,000 Zimbabweans have returned home in the past year due to the economic fallout from COVID-19 in the countries where they worked.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is providing nurses to help Zimbabwean officials perform COVID-19 tests. Other services include critical risk communication and disease surveillance activities, infection prevention and control, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and reintegration assistance.
IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Mario Lito Malanca noted that the number of returns has exceeded expectations, highlighting the massive socio-economic impact of the virus in areas requiring a refocus on long-term solutions.
“Without these measures, we will see many returnees sink deeper into crisis, resort to negative coping mechanisms and possibly be forced to migrate again through irregular means,” he said.
More than 1.9 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in southern Africa since March 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and more than 60,000 lives have been lost. The hardest hit were the three main destination countries for Zimbabwean migrant workers: South Africa, Malawi and Botswana.
An IOM survey of returnees found that, in most cases, the decision to return was linked to the impacts of the pandemic, including financial problems, hunger and loss of housing, lack of access to medical assistance, mental health support, identity document problems. and the risk of aggression in the country where they worked.
The survey also found that the returnees had professional skills ranging from construction to commerce, agriculture, catering, painting and domestic work.
Zimbabwe government guidelines require returnees to have valid COVID-19 certificates before entering the country. Without a valid test certificate, they are sent to provincial quarantine centers in Beitbridge, Plumtree and Chirundu to await testing.
With the support of IOM and its Development Fund (FID), the Government of Zimbabwe is engaging with its neighbors in the conclusion of bilateral agreements to combat the factors that encourage returns, while putting in place mechanisms internships for socio-economic reintegration through employment assistance projects.
On Thursday, April 22, IOM and the Zimbabwe Embassy in South Africa are hosting a virtual webinar on Zimbabwean Diaspora Engagement for Development. The aim is to initiate a sustained dialogue between the government of Zimbabwe and its diaspora on development issues. Registration can be completed here.
The recently launched IOM Zimbabwe 2021 Crisis Response Plan of USD 38.9 million aims to strengthen COVID-19 preparedness and response capacities through 2021 and promote socio-economic reintegration through through self-employment, community income projects and livelihood activities targeting 1.7 million people.
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