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IOM scales up plans to address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the over 200 000 returning migrants

OM for COVID-19 provides response to migrants

Since the onset of the COVID-19 in March 2020, approximately 200 000 migrants have returned to Zimbabwe. These migrants have returned to the very communities which led them to look for a better life elsewhere and have no livelihood opportunities to sustain their return and overall socio-economic stability. In response, IOM Zimbabwe is scaling up its plans to address the mobility aspects of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on socio-economic recovery to address the needs of returning migrants following COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures. IOM Zimbabwe’s Response Plan is part of the IOM Global Strategic Preparedness and Response plan, which highlights the needs of migrant returnees in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the tune of US$10 million in several thematic areas of response.

To date, IOM and partners have assisted the government through multi-sectoral initiatives focusing on strengthening public health measures at points of entry (PoEs) and along major mobility pathways. Along with the need to strengthen COVID-19 preparedness and response capacities well into 2021, it is critical to cater to the socio-economic needs of the returnees to ensure they do not fall deeper into crisis or rely on negative coping mechanisms. IOM Zimbabwe’s planned initiatives seek to provide longer-term support to affected communities through promoting socio-economic reintegration through self-employment, community income projects, and livelihood activities to ensure community stabilization.

IOM seeks to further provide farming inputs targeting nutrition gardens and smallholder farmers, and productive asset creation like conservation farming and supporting market linkages. The appropriate interventions have been identified through community-based planning (CBP) approach to support post-crisis recovery and durable solutions. Mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS) are a necessary part of this response as affected populations suffer the many negative impacts of the pandemic which include job losses, financial hardship, interrupted education, the loss of loved ones, stigma, and isolation.

Speaking on the launch of the IOM Zimbabwe 2021 Crisis Response Plan, IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Mario Lito Malanca emphasised the importance of responding to the socio-economic needs of migrants returning to Zimbabwe because of COVID-19.

“As we come to grips with the public health impact of COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot overemphasise its socio-economic impact whose effects we will feel for years to come if we do not empower vulnerable migrants with the means for sustainable livelihoods going forward,” Malanca said.

Zimbabwe is part of a dynamic region characterized by significant cross‐border movements of populations. Zimbabwe faces political challenges resulting in social and economic instability, creating a combination of factors that have destroyed people’s livelihoods. Zimbabwe is also extremely vulnerable to a wide range of natural and man-made disasters. In the past years, floods, tropical storms, cyclones, and long periods of droughts have deteriorated the resilience capacity of its population, impacting the most vulnerable rural regions of the country, and exacerbating acute needs, resulting in severe food insecurity.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) seeks to ensure humanitarian protection and assistance needs are met through the provision of timely, multi-sector interventions, while simultaneously addressing the root causes of vulnerability related to natural hazards and food insecurity, thereby building resilience to future risks in Zimbabwe. Addressing and facilitating rights‐based service delivery and building the capacity of local authorities and other key stakeholders as well as impacted communities will be critical across IOM’s work. To achieve this IOM is appealing for US$ 38.9 million targeting 1,719,758 people. Of this, around US$10 million will be geared towards addressing the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende