The embassy of Sweden in Zimbabwe has donated 15 million Swedish krona (about US$1 549 956) to strengthen returnees’ rights at points of entry as part of its COVID-19 response.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
The funds come as the Zimbabwean government is struggling to support the burgeoning number of returnees, with reports showing that some have been escaped from the quarantine centres where conditions are deplorable and food rations inadequate.
A few days ago, government also demanded that returnees pay US$65 for prerequisite coronavirus tests only to backtrack after protests from the quarantined returnees.
In a statement released yesterday, Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe Asa Pehrson said the assistance was for the support of communities affected by COVID-19 and to scale up co-ordinated protection, promotion and enforcement of human rights for citizens and other vulnerable groups that include internally-displaced persons.
“International Organization of Migration (IOM) has received additional funds to scale up human rights protection of migrants and vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also intensify monitoring, tracking and co-ordination at points of entry, strengthening the response to vulnerable migrant returnees and the national COVID-19 response,” the statement read.
“This support emphasizes the need to monitor points of entry across Zimbabwe, provide healthcare, water and sanitation services in order to save lives of the most vulnerable.”
Pehrson said the funds would be administered by IOM in close co-ordination with the Health ministry, district protection committees, Social Welfare department officials, immigration authorities at border posts, United Nations partners and civil society organisations.
The Swedish diplomat said their efforts were meant to strengthen the national COVID-19 response to contain and interrupt the virus from spreading and save lives.
He added that this meant particularly migrants and migrant host communities affected by the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 to strengthen their resilience.
IOM Zimbabwe chief of mission Mario Lito Malanca welcomed the support, saying the assistance to migrant returnees would mitigate the risks related to stigmatisation and exacerbation of social tensions in receiving communities. Zimbabwe has 56 confirmed COVID-19 cases and four deaths.
Of the recently recorded new cases, one was a male returnee from Botswana and three were Malawian illegal immigrants.