An estimated 20 000 migrants are expected to have returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries in next few months as the effects of Covid-19 pandemic take its toll.
This is the prediction made this week by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
A total of 14 044 migrants have returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries, as of 5 August, with the large majority of returnees arriving through the points of entry of Beitbridge border post, Plumtree, Harare International airport and Forbes.
However, the figure is higher than the official statistics as some returning residents are skipping illegally back into Zimbabwe.
“The number continues to increase daily, with a projection of 20,000 new arrivals in the next coming months with inclusion of those from northern countries, such as Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia,” OCHA said in a recent Situation Report on Zimbabwe.
“As of 5 August, a total of 14,044 migrants (versus 10,808 on 7 July; and 6,892 on 9 June), including 7,724 men, 6,036 women and 284 children, have returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries through nine of the main Points of Entry (PoEs), namely Beitbridge, Plumtree, Kazungula, Victoria Falls land border, Victoria Falls airport, Chirundu, Forbes, Sango and Harare (Robert Gabriel International) Airport, since the onset of Covid-19 and the imposed restrictive measures, due to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the lack of access to livelihoods and support from host governments.”
“As of 5 August, 1,314 returnees were quarantined in 44 centres operated by government, including 689 men, 527 women, 50 girls and 48 boys. The large majority of returnees were quarantined in Harare (340), Manicaland (96), Bulawayo (168), Masvingo (191), Mashonaland West (1402) and Matabeleland South (164).
“Harare is the province with more quantity of arrivals and has functioning 12 quarantine facilities. With the number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa increasing at an alarming rate, and corresponding increases in Bulawayo and surrounding districts, there is a need for increased cross-border engagement and collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with neighbouring countries Botswana and South Africa, to test returnees before return and avoid returning people infected by Covid-19 in holding facilities,” it said.
On arrival, returnees are screened, RDT tested and transferred to provincial quarantine facilities nearest to their places of destination, in order to avoid overcrowding of returnees and provide basic services.
OCHA called for improved conditions at the government-run quarantine facilities.
“There continues to be an urgent need to improve conditions for migrant returnees in provincial quarantine facilities, to provide basic services including, food, water, and medical services.
“In addition, there is a need for increased testing for personnel and quarantine residents and to reinforce security and surveillance to avoid the spread of the disease, since the majority of recently confirmed cases were among returnees.
Further, provision of livelihood support for the returnees’ post-discharge from the quarantine facilities, is increasingly needed to support the reintegration into receiving communities, avoid rejection, stigmatisation and social tension.”