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.
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. Said Malanca:
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 coping mechanisms, and possibly being forced to migrate once again through irregular means.