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COVID-19 and its impact on Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa

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“There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries.” -President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Africa was the last continent to be affected by the COVID-19 trajectory.  The pandemic; however, quickly spread across the continent, and most African governments are struggling to curb it. Currently, the epicenter of COVID-19 in Africa is South Africa, specifically the Western Cape. Against this backdrop, the Western Cape now accounts for 60% of the country’s total COVID-19 cases. South Africa is the second-largest economy in Africa after Nigeria. As such, it is the dominant actor in the SADC region. South Africa’s enormous economic development makes it Africa’s most giant magnet for immigrants. Therefore, South Africa is a regional hub of many immigrants. Migrants are people who migrate from their countries to settle on new territory. The projected number of migrants in South Africa is approximately 4 million out of a total population of more than 50million. The main source of migrants in South Africa is neighboring countries. Of note, 70% of the migrants comes from Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Mozambique. Recently, the estimated number of infections in South Africa toped 35,812 death neared 755 and 18,313 recovered (Wordometer, 3 June) As such, the South African government embarked on robust measures to contain the disease. These include social distancing, travel restrictions, cancelled public gatherings lockdowns and curfews.

The lesson drawn from other countries informs us that the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran led to chaotic conditions. Resultantly, almost 200 000 Afghan immigrants in Iran have returned to Afghanistan because of either fear of the pandemic or lost jobs. The migrants used border channels as well as irregular means.  However, more than half of the returnee tested COVID-19 positive. Food security with regards to migrants, has been a significant concern in India amidst COVID-19 pandemic because subsidized food is for citizens. Additionally, in Myanmar, more than 63, 000 emigrants have returned from Thailand and China, adding to the already weak health delivery system. Social distancing also means reduced access to services and necessities. For instance, in Italy, many programs related to assisting migrants were suspended, as the government focused on fighting COVID-19. On the note, in Libya, refugees were removed from aid. Against this background, a few immigrants have also decided to return to their countries from South Africa. These include more than 2680 immigrants from Zimbabwe.

History informs us that the 1918 Spanish flu claimed more than 650, 000 lives in the US. The immigration process was widely affected as immigration stations adjusted to cater for the requirements of people who arrived affected with influenza. There was a surge in the cases of flu at the New Orleans Immigration station, and some of the detained immigrants developed symptoms. In most instances when pandemics happen migrants, refugees and disabled people are usually more exposed. During the financial crisis of 2007-8, migrants lost their jobs and some returned to their home countries. The levels of remittance and support of communities and families dropped drastically, such as in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. Remittances dropped because the majority of the migrants used to depend on lower-income jobs such as mines and farms. During the Cholera Pandemic of 2009 in Zimbabwe, South Africa was affected by imported cases of cholera from Zimbabwe. The World Health Organization 2009 reported that there was absent of cross-border health policies between the two countries to control the cholera outbreak in 2009.  Despite all these past challenges the Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa are not exempt from the COVID-19 trajectory.

Migrants around the globe have become more vulnerable to COVID-19 and increased poverty.  Migrants are one of the most exposed group and easily forgotten in global epidemics. Noteworthy, as governments concentrate on fighting the outbreaks, migrants are usually the losers in the most global crisis. Many migrants were struggling to make ends meet since most of them worked in informal work. Also, the majority of migrants live in crowded places with no access to clean and safe water. Some areas in South Africa are loaded with migrants, and most of them lack basic structures. However, the IOM is worried about the likelihood of an outbreak inside these facilities. As such, social distancing is challenging to implement in such a scenario. Worse, migrant’s short-term contracts make them more vulnerable to economic shocks. The majority of the immigrants are left with no income as they work as waiters and drivers, some transport services and restaurant were closed hence left incomeless. Shops who were owned by South African nationals could be allowed to open as well as receive compensation for losses incurred; however, migrant’s small businesses were not included. Therefore, migrants struggled to raise enough money for rent. Above all, South Africa has been struggling to impose effective hygiene and social distancing in its crowded and most impoverished neighborhoods. However, the majority of the migrants reside in these areas. Thousands of Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa are failing to have access to assistance. Nearly 6,854 migrants are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Migrants in Gauteng are heading home, raising the risks of the pandemic. The IOM South Africa is assisting the return of 400 out of nearly 4,500 vulnerable migrants in South Africa. For example, conducting medical checks, facilitating pre-departure arrangements, as well as travel arrangements. More than 13,000 Zimbabweans diaspora in South Africa returned home and are required to stay in the selected isolation centers for 21 days. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the emigrants to the financial crisis. In fact, the majority of the migrants have fled Zimbabwe political turn oil and financial meltdown since 2000 to South Africa. The Zimbabwean migrants were faced with a difficult decision of coming back to Zimbabwe to face again the challenges that forced to migrate in the first place. However, some of the migrants who returned from South Africa have escaped the isolation centers exposing Zimbabweans to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Despite, evidence that border wall does not stop COVID-19 pandemic, the US and South Africa have increased the security of their borders. President Donald Trump has revealed that the US required wall than ever, especially in the Southern Border with Mexico. On the same note, South Africa has long been willing to reduce irregular migration from neighboring countries, specifically Zimbabwe which threatens local jobs. South Africa announced that it was to erect a 40km-fence at Beitbridge Border with Zimbabwe. Beitbridge Border Post is one of the busiest border station in the SADC region. The reason for the fence was to control illegal or infected migrants. Some of the illicit migrants are fleeing from the dysfunctional Zimbabwe in anticipation of greener pastures in South Africa.

On a positive note in South Africa, everyone, including migrants enjoys free primary health care services and emergency services. South Africa has announced regulations that any foreigner has permission to remain in the country legally. As such, migrants are kept safe, and it minimized the chances to cross the border via irregular routes. South Africa possesses a good record of welcoming migrants as well as living in harmony with them. For instance, President Cyril Ramaphosa has discouraged any xenophobic attack against migrants and encouraged locals to treat migrants with respect and dignity. The International Labor for Migration and the embassy of Zimbabwe in South Africa launched a COVID-19 Humanitarian Appeal to respond to the needs of stranded migrants from Zimbabwe. In KwaZulu-Natal Province and Pretoria, UNHCR have been working with NGOs to identify and assist marginalized people such as migrants and refugees. Resultantly, food handouts were distributed to almost 20 000 vulnerable people. Furthermore, South Africa began to ease lockdown restrictions and currently on Alert -level 3. People cango shopping wearing masks, restaurants can open, but gatherings remained prohibited. Some Zimbabwean immigrants in Cape town united, mobilized   resources through social media and are assisting each other to pay rent.  In addition, they are also helping each other to buy food during these difficult moments.

Conclusion

Migrants are usually victims of any circumstance, such as global pandemics and natural disasters, no matter how hard the host government tries to protect them. The study recommends that the South African Health Department should ensure that the right of access to health services to all and existing legal frameworks are upheld. Undocumented migrants should also be considered and provided with accurate information, health services and humanitarian aid. The Zimbabwean government is encouraged to come up with long-term policies that will solve the political and economic challenges currently facing the country. It will control unnecessary migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa. The COVID-19 epidemic responses and mitigation measures in Africa must also consider the migrants, refugees and internally displaced people.

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Africa

Transforming Africa

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Authors: Srilata Kammila and Rohini Kohli, UNDP*

This year’s Africa Climate Week brings together governments and key stakeholders from across the continent to “explore resilience against climate risks, the transition to a low-emission economy and the partnerships we need to solve these pressing challenges.”

With so much at stake, it’s clear that we must make substantial investments and coordinated efforts in building transformative climate actions across Africa.

This means advancing integrated holistic solutions that connect the dots between land-use, water management, agriculture and livelihoods, between energy, natural resources, economic growth and social development, and between disaster risk reduction, climate information services and resilience. This is what we call transformative climate action.

A life-threatening crisis

We are in a race against time. And no continent is more vulnerable from the multiplying threats of climate change, poverty, conflict, displacement, and hunger than Africa.

The most recent IPCC Report indicates vast disruptions to economies, lives, food security and livelihoods across the continent. “Africa has contributed among the least to greenhouse gas emissions, yet key development sectors have already experienced widespread loss and damage attributable to anthropogenic climate change, including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and reduced economic growth.”

Temperature rises between 1.5°C and 2°C are projected to become widespread, resulting in reduced food production and economic growth, increased inequality and poverty, biodiversity loss, and most concerning increased human morbidity and mortality, according to the report.

While the war in Ukraine, ongoing conflicts and COVID-19 have exacerbated these issues, climate change is pushing million more people to the brink of starvation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sahel and beyond.

It’s not just a regional problem. It’s not just an Africa problem. It’s a worldwide problem.

But the poorest and most vulnerable will be the ones that will lose their children to hunger. They are the ones that will see crops wilt on the vine as prolonged droughts scourge the continent. They are the ones on the frontlines. And we must empower local action, national action and global action to rise to the truly devastating consequences of climate change.

A pathway forward

The pathway forward starts with people, but also requires resources, political will, policies and coordination to deliver the type of transformative action we need.

UNDP is accelerating adaptation planning and investments in Africa through a number of cross-sectoral solutions across the key domains of adaptation policy and planning, resilient livelihoods, food security, ecosystem-based adaptation, water resources and coastal management, and climate information and early warnings.

In Zambia for instance, a project funded through the Green Climate Fund and delivered in partnership with the government by UNDP, FAO and WFP is building climate-resilient food security and poverty reduction measures for close to a million people. The project has introduced the use of modern technology, sustainable growing techniques, and better understanding of climate change and has already reached close to 200,000 smallholder famers.

In Uganda, we are working to protect vulnerable wetland ecosystems and build resilient communities with support for support sustainable land management practices and reforestation, resilient practices and alternative livelihoods for 4 million people that rely on the wetlands for their livelihoods.

Integrating adaptation into development

Climate risk-informed policy, planning, and investment decisions that maximize development benefits to communities are critical for transformative action on adaptation. A ‘whole-of-society’ approach calls for integration of adaptation at all levels of society from informing national and sub-national policy and budgeting to devolving finance and decision making to local stakeholders for adaptation action.

UNDP’s support to adaptation planning in over 50 countries is building capacity to assess risks and vulnerabilities, measure adaptation progress, identify adaptation priorities and works in tandem with national, sectoral and local institutions for risk informed plans and budgets.

In building united actions, a joint initiative led by FAO and UNDP with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) is scaling up climate ambition on land use and agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans across 12 countries worldwide, including five in Africa.

In Uganda, the SCALA Programme is working to build the agricultural, forestry and land-use plans needed to improve production on the farm, reduce emissions, and connect climate plans and policies with climate actions like the wetlands initiative.

In its updated Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, Côte d’Ivoire committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30.41% by 2030 relative to business as usual, or 98.95% with international support. The country has also committed to increasing resilience in agriculture, food and land use, water, health, and coastal zones. 

UNDP’s Climate Promise along with various supports for National Adaptation Plans are supporting the country in delivering on these goals.

As the world’s largest cocoa bean exporter, the SCALA programme in Côte d’Ivoire is building a more resilient cocoa culture to ultimately lower emissions from cocoa production, which has been a major cause of deforestation over the last decade. As the country shifts towards more sustainable agroforestry landscape practices – more forests coverage will help absorb more carbon emissions

Africa driven solutions and partnerships

Locally-led adaptation initiatives connected with globally minded partnerships are key. At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in December 2015, African Heads of State launched the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) to ensure the continent urgently adapts to the adverse effects of climate change in the immediate, short, medium and longer terms. With funding from the European Union and support from UNDP, the programme is enhancing capacity to utilize climate risk information and assess and implement risk transfer mechanisms.

Launched at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January 2021, the Adaptation Innovation Marketplace (AIM) is a another strategic global platform that promotes scaled-up adaptation at the local level, focusing on civil society, non-government organizations, and women and youth innovators. The marketplace crowds in resources, know-how and support to facilitate local access to climate change finance.

The AIM partners include UNDP, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change, the Global Resilience Partnership, the Climate-Knowledge Innovation Community, and UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

Currently, there are multiple funding windows under AIM. One funding window supported by the Adaptation Fund and EU (Adaptation Fund Climate Innovation Accelerator) has recently concluded the first round of call for proposals, and seven local partners from Africa were selected for the first round of funding.

In Ghana, the local partner Open Ghana aims to create alternative livelihoods for women, youth and persons with disabilities by establishing dry season gardens across multiple regions. Local community members will be trained on climate change adaptation, and several village savings and loans associations will be formed to develop sustainable business modules using the second-season-cropping production.

In Uganda, our local partner Sample Uganda Aquaculture Association is introducing aquaponics technology through an innovative lease-to-own model to promote aquaponics and horticulture related production, including nursery propagation.

These locally led adaptation solutions with sustainable business models are going to be key for transforming the adaptation practice in Africa.

Investing today for a better tomorrow

Investments in adaptation provide a significant return on investment. It’s good for business, it’s good for our planet, it’s good for our people.

The Global Commission on Adaptation found that investing US$1.8 trillion globally in five areas – early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and resilient water resources – from 2020 to 2030 could generate US$7.1 trillion in total net benefits.

There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate-resilient development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris targets. Global leaders must step up to support UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to apply 50% of all climate finance for adaptation and adhere to the commitments at COP26 in Glasgow, which called for doubling adaptation finance from US$20 billion to US$40 billion per year, a larger proportion of which is urgently needed for Africa.

Transformation is possible and there is hope with initiatives like the Great Green Wall, low-emission, high-growth strategies in Nigeria, and ground-up initiatives led by women farmers in Ghana will build equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Throughout it all, the leaders of Africa must commit to transformative climate actions and coordinated approaches to protect the most vulnerable communities from the unfolding and ever-increasing risks and impacts of climate change

Srilata Kammila

Srilata Kammila is the Head of Climate Change Adaptation at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This position sits in UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team in UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support/Global Policy Network.

Rohini Kohli

Rohini Kohli is the Senior Technical Advisor for Adaptation Policy and Planning in  UNDP’s Nature, Climate and Energy Team.

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Russia Scrambles for Higher Performance Marks in Africa

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Squeezed between Western and European sanctions due to its “special military operation” in Ukraine since late February and its dilapidating effects on Africa’s economy on one side and its decades-old desire to regain part of the Soviet-era influence despite the weak economic presence and negative perceptions at the core among the public especially the youth and middle class, Russia is gearing up for the next traditional African leaders summit. 

With preparations underway, Russia would have to begin preparing for and play different attractive rhythms at the second African leaders summit in 2023 at St. Petersburg, Russia. Reports monitored by the author indicate that the modest economic gains are gradually eroding due to Covid-19 these past two years and the situation is turning complicated currently due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The Russia-Ukraine crisis has a strong immeasurable negative impact, generating social discontent across large spectrum of the population in Africa. Therefore, African leaders would indiscriminately have cooperate with any foreign investors willing to invest and support their development process. Across Africa, more than 282 million people are food insecured – and that number is rising, according to the estimates by the World Bank. 

Throughout Africa, many across the population are displaying discontention and dissatisfaction due to unbearable rising prices for commodities and consumables. This latest food crisis, which did not originate in the continent, is reaching alarming dimensions especially in Africa. In fact, African leaders are confronted with these hurdles and emerging challenges. They are feverishly looking for both short-term solutions to calm down existing tensions among the people, and also long-term strategies to push sustainable development and make pace for growth.

The United States percieves most of the challenges and opportunities with a difference in Africa. It is constantly investing and its private investors are active exploring the continent. The United States is well-connected with its public outreach diplomacy. American institutions and organizations are linking up with the youth, women and the civil society.

After a peak in 2014, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa from the United States dropped to US$47.5 billion in 2020. During the pandemic, it provided more than 50 million doses to 43 African countries. It has further given more than US$1.9 billion in Covid-related assistance, for urgent needs like emergency food and other humanitarian support.

President Joe Biden has launched the Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience. The year, the Congress allocated US$3 billion every year by 2024 to finance climate adaptation projects, the largest commitment ever made by the United States to reduce the impact of climate change on those most endangered by it. Through the Power Africa programme, the U.S. has connected more than 25 million homes and businesses across the continent to electricity, 80 percent of which is based on renewables. Development Finance Corporation supports renewable energy across Africa, including a solar project in Nigeria, wind farms in Senegal and Kenya. Nigeria marked a new chapter with the signing of a US$2.1 billion development assistance agreement that supports collaboration in the fundamentals: in health, in education, agriculture, good governance. 

And then four U.S. companies are collaborating with the Senegalese Government on infrastructure projects; that’s the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, which is working toward COVID vaccine production with American support and investment; and pushing innivation, technology and entrepreneurship with women and youth groups in Africa.  The popular partnership between the United States and Africa is YALI – the Young African Leaders Initiative.

The Prosper Africa initiative aims to increase two-way trade and investment.  The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act – known as AGOA – provides duty-free access to American markets, and most African countries have taken full advantage of it. U.S. investors are seriously leveraging unto the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Similarly, China, Japan and South Korea have started localizing production of automobiles and tech gadgets. 

Despite some criticism, international development institutions and organizations are ready and offering support. In addition, external countries are stepping up efforts in that direction. The World Bank stands ready. Its latest three-year, US$93 billion global programme – about 2/3 of which will support Africa’s development agenda – delivered through the International Development Association (IDA). The IDA is the world’s largest source of concessional funds, including grants for low-income countries, helping them seize opportunities to reduce poverty and stimulate inclusive growth.

This latest IDA replenishment will enable our support to Africa to increase even more in the years ahead.  Africa has become the prime region benefiting from IDA resources – growing more than tenfold its annual program of about US$3 billion in 2000 to well over US$30 billion currently. This support, plus our growing on the ground presence across Africa, is enabling us to work hand-in-hand with governments, with the private sector, and civil society to implement the continent’s ambitious development agenda.

While in Dakar, capital of Senegal, meeting more than a dozen Heads of State from across Africa, Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, said “African leaders have, through the African Union process, articulated clear goals – from digitalization to electricity to education – and we are committed to helping Africa translate these ambitions into strong programmes that can, within a short period of time, improve people’s lives and transform the continent.”

Foreign countries, the United States, European Union, Asian states such China, and from the Gulf and Arab states are, indeed, at the forefront in Africa. In March during the heat of Russia-Ukraine crisis, the United States and European Union supported Africa through the African Development Bank (AfDB), when the bank sought funds more than US$50 billion for curated bankable projects in key priority sectors identified in the Africa Investment Forum’s 2020 Unified Response to Covid-19 initiative.

According to the China-Africa Economic and Trade Relationship Annual Report (2021), while Covid-19 has shaken the global economy, Chinese investment in Africa has been climbing. The report says China invested US$2.96 billion in Africa in 2020, up 9.5% from 2019.  The turnover of Chinese enterprises’ contracted projects in Africa amounted to US$383.3 billion in 2020, that is a 16.7% drop from 2019.

In a media release, the U.S. Government’s lead development agency, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has renewed its partnership with many African countries. Quiye recently, it offered to fund various projects, including investment in health and education, women and youth, and infrastructures in a number of African countries. For instance, in April this year, it gave assistance funding of US$1.5 billion to promote a more peaceful, prosperous and healthy Mozambique.

The economic significance of Eurasian Union for Africa’s development here need not be over-discussed. Members of the European Union such as Britain, France, Germany and The Netherlands are play some visible roles in Africa. The European Union, as a substantial economic power bloc, has long-term working relations with African Union.

With its new Global Gateway Strategy, the EU is demonstrating the readiness to support massive infrastructural investment in Africa.  It also seeks to unlock new business and investment opportunities, including in the areas of manufacturing and agro processing as well as regional and continental value chains development. In a document entitled “Toward a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa” – the document sets forth the template of what the EU plans to do with Africa. 

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner at the EU Secretariat pointed out that “In this new approach towards Africa, we can build a modern, sustainable and mutually rewarding partnership of equals. Of course, there will be challenges along the way but the EU stands ready to help. We want to share the lessons from our own process of economic integration, and with our new Global Gateway Strategy. We have demonstrated that we are ready to support massive infrastructural investment in Africa.”

That said, African leaders are exploring available possibilities and windows that have been opened after the last EU-Africa summit. The European Union has unveiled €300 billion (US$340 billion) alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative – an investment programme the bloc claims will create links, not dependencies.

There great rivalry and keen competition among key global players now. And Africa is now seen from different perspectives, but more importantly, it has been described as the last investment frontier due to the current transformations taking place there. During the 35th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the AU in Addis Ababa in February, António Guterres argued that Africa was “a source of hope” for the world. 

In November 2021, a report prepared by 25 Russian policy experts, titled ‘Situation Analytical Report’ explicitly noted that many external countries are using diplomacy in all ways to support their efforts in Africa. It criticized the inconsistency of Russia’s current policy towards Africa. The intensification of political contacts is only with a focus on making them demonstrative. Russia’s foreign policy strategy regarding Africa needs to spell out and incorporate the development needs of African countries. 

While the number of high-level meetings has increased, the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains small. There are little definitive results from such high-level meetings. Many bilateral agreements largely remain not implemented, and many pledges undelivered. It pointed to lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. According to the report, Russia has to intensify and redefine its parameters as it has now transcended to the fifth stage in its relationship with Africa.

That report was also critical about public speaking. The report lists insufficient and disorganized Russian-African lobbying, combined with the lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking among the main flaws of Russia’s current Africa policy. In several ways, ideas and intentions are often passed for results, and worse Russia’s possibilities are overestimated both publicly and in closed negotiations.

Several reports monitored by this author show clearly that there has been little approach, in terms of government and institutional public relations, in Russia’s foreign policy in Africa. This author has written a lot about this, emphasizing the seriousness of using media networks – an calculated attempt to build an atmosphere of trust and confidence. Quite obviously, Russians have to devote a great deal of thought to creating strategic communication group that could highlight its diverse performance and practical genuine interests in Africa.

Opening a new stage of relations becomes important especially when analyzing the contradictions and confrontations posed by the Russia-Ukraine crisis and its multiple effects on future relations. Without doubts, African leaders complained bitterly that they have become direct victims of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Overall Russia’s investment in economic sectors is still staggering there in the continent and comparatively, the fact still remains that the United States, the European Union and a number of Asian and Gulf States are investing heavily in Africa.

The Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Deputy Mikhail Bogdanov, most often show their crosshair of consistent criticism for Western and European dominance and investment in Africa. It lacks strategies for implementing those oftentimes forward-looking policy for Africa. The passion for repeating the same things in different ways in speeches. In a general sense, their repetitive theme of Soviet-era support for political liberation and now efforts to help Africa fight neocolonialism is highly appreciated but Russia has to, in practical terms, show its latest policy achievements in various sectors for the past two decades. 

On another side note, Russia most probably needs to design its template of its communication strategy ahead of the 2023 summit, that has to largely win the hearts of African leaders to the emerging New World Order. As already promised, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, indicated in a mid-June message that “in these difficult and crucial times the strategic partnership with Africa has become a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. The signed agreements and the results will be consolidated at the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit.” 

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Ethiopia: Without immediate funding, 750,000 refugees will have ‘nothing to eat’

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Children displaced by conflict and drought pose for a photo n Semera, Afar Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/UN0639245/Sewunet

UN agencies appealed on Tuesday for $73 million over the next six months to provide food rations to more than 750,000 people seeking refuge in Ethiopia.

The World Food Programme (WFP), UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and Ethiopian Government Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) made the plea for assistance because without it, WFP will run out of food for the refugees by October.

The impending crisis will leave vulnerable families at risk of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, and increased susceptibility to diseases, the agencies warned

“Three quarters of a million refugees will be left with nothing to eat in just a matter of weeks unless we receive funding immediately,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative and Country Director for Ethiopia.

Ration cuts

Cutting rations has been an issue with which WFP has long had to grapple.

Food rations for refugees in Ethiopia were first reduced by 16 per cent in November 2015, then 40 per cent in November 2021, and finally 50 per cent in June 2022.

The impact of these cuts has been heightened by global limitations on food availability, widespread economic shock, rising food and energy costs, the COVID-19 fallout, and armed conflict.

Impact of cuts

To understand the impact of ration cuts on refugees, WFP, UNHCR and RRS conducted in April, a rapid assessment on 1,215 refugee camps households throughout relevant regions.

The results show that most had coped with food insecurity by reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, consuming less expensive foods, or limiting meal portions. 

The joint assessment also revealed that households are going to desperate measures to make up for funding cuts.

Funding repercussions

Funding cuts have forced refugees to rely on an ever-finite supply of food, which increases the likelihood of resource-based conflicts.

Data shows that many families have been relying on children to generate extra income to afford food.

Other households were forced to borrow cash, relying on friends or relatives for sustenance.

“We have a shortfall of $73 million for refugees’ minimum needs and we are deeply concerned that if funding cuts continue, they may consider returning to their places of origin when it is unsafe,” warned Mr. Jibidar.

Taking action 

More resources must be mobilized to meet immediate food demands, and smart investments should be taken to prioritize sustainable farming.  

“The priority for us all must be to restore assistance to at least minimum levels for refugees, all of whom are solely reliant on WFP’s cash and food assistance for survival,” said the UN Country Director.

With an immediate donor response, WFP would be able to buy food available in the region to meet the dietary needs of the refugees and also transfer cash to the refugees, providing them the choice of how to meet their immediate needs and stimulating local markets.

Support needed

The agencies have established an effective system to identify the food assistance needs of refugees through biometric verification, accountability mechanisms and programmes to grant monthly food and cash assistance.

The trio called on all partners to strengthen efforts to address their immediate and long-term food needs in line with international commitments. 

Meanwhile, WFP, UNHCR and RRS will continue to count on donors for extended funding support based on the principle of shared responsibility to implement basic humanitarian life-saving activities.

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