70 percent returnees in need of food: IOM

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THE International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Zimbabwe has said 70 percent of the country’s returnees are in urgent need of food and financial assistance, the Daily News reports.

This comes as scores of Zimbabweans living and working abroad have returned to the country owing to the negative impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on their sources of livelihoods, among other things.
In its preliminary report of the socio-economic assessment of migrants returning to Zimbabwe during the time of the Covid-19, IOM indicated that 70 percent of the surveyed returnees reported that they needed assistance, while
71 percent indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic had negatively impacted on their wellbeing and livelihoods.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is arguably one of the biggest shocks faced by global health systems with massive impact on economies and societies.
“To ensure migrants’ vulnerabilities are addressed, IOM has conducted a socio-economic survey to understand the critical needs of returning migrants. 71 percent of those surveyed reported a negative socio-economic impact on their livelihoods and wellbeing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Based on the reported needs the proposed response is for a reintegration package covering immediate emergency assistance to cover short term food and transportation needs and mid-to-long term reintegration package covering business set-up support and cash assistance,” IOM said.
“This study was conducted to generate empirical evidence to complement other evaluations by both the government of Zimbabwe and other humanitarian actors with interests and mandates to provide humanitarian response development and policy making in response to the impact of Covid-19 on mobility and labour migration,” IOM added.
According to the IOM, an unpublished report from the government showed that 19 000 people have returned to Zimbabwe from counties including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, China, United Kingdom and the United States owing to loss of income, fear for personal safety, family support, invalid documentation and educational needs.
Many of the returnees were placed in mandatory quarantine facilities to be released when they tested negative for Covid-19 at the end of 21 days, with the government recently indicating that the number of quarantine days would be reduced to two.
The IOM’s preliminary findings come at a time when the World Food Programme Zimbabwe (WFP) has appealed for US$250 million to boost food assistance in the country, warning that 8,6 million people will be facing starvation by December 2020.
“Many Zimbabwean families are suffering the ravages of acute hunger, and their plight will get worse before it gets better. We need the international community to step up now to help us prevent a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
“Subsistence farming families, who make up three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s population and produce most of its food, are also hurting because of a third successive drought-hit harvest this year. It yielded only 1,1 million MT of maize, the staple cereal, well down on last year’s already poor 2,4 million MT and less than half the national requirement.
“This, in turn, presages even more severe hunger in early 2021, the peak of the next lean season,” WFP’s regional director for Southern Africa Lola Castro said.

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