Africa - Catholic Aid is Helping Returned African Migrants Counter Hunger, COVID-19

Catholic organizations are stepping up efforts to assist migrants returning to Africa as southern African countries – including Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa and Malawi — relax COVID-19 restrictions and open up land borders. In some countries, strict lockdowns worsened hunger and joblessness, threatening asylum seekers and citizens returning from abroad with starvation. “In Malawi for instance, many returnees arrive without the basics,” said Dyna Khonde, emergency program manager for Catholic Relief Services in Malawi.

 Catholic Relief Services has provided meal assistance to more than 700 returned migrants. “We are also building testing shelters at the border so people can maintain their privacy and dignify while being tested.” Many migrants from Africa, where some regions have faced worsening economic prospects owing to the devastating effects of successive droughts and Cyclone Idai in 2019, had sought better employment prospects in South Africa. Others traveled as far as the United States, Europe, the Middle East and China. In the Southern Africa region alone, the International Organization for Migration estimates there are about 7.9 million migrants in the 16 countries of the Southern African Development Community, an inter-governmental organization. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 into a pandemic meant that many economic opportunities for these African migrants dried up, forcing them back home. Some are legal residents of their new countries, but after job losses, feel forced to return to their birth places for support. And with governments already struggling with other domestic issues, most of these returning migrants found themselves in difficult and sometimes desperate situations. In Malawi for example, a shift in political power and court-ordered election after a manipulated vote has exacerbated economic uncertainty due to the pandemic. It’s the latest in a string of economic difficulties that have over the years pushed many Malawians into neighboring countries. Read more…