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COVID-19: UK Extends Vital Support to 750,000 People Across Southern Africa

Wearing face masks as a preventive measure against COVID-19

As Zimbabwe is feeling the effects of a declining economic and humanitarian situation which has been compounded by Covid-19, recently, the UK announced £7 million to provide much-needed essential services and food assistance to almost 750,000 people, including 14,000 households and nearly half a million migrants who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across Southern Africa.

The countries to benefit include Lesotho, Eswatini, Madagascar, Namibia and South Africa.

A new fund will provide income relief to more than 8,000 families in Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, affected by a drop in remittances from South Africa.

For Zimbabwe, the new funding will benefit 115,660 people and 2 quarantine facilities.

This publication has learnt that the region has been hard-hit by a prolonged drought and the COVID-19 pandemic has further deepened the food insecurity situation leaving 18 million people across Southern Africa at risk of hunger for the remainder of this year.

Communities in Lesotho, Eswatini, Madagascar, Namibia, and South Africa affected by the pandemic will benefit from a £6.5 million emergency fund through partners UNICEF, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

This includes water, hygiene, and sanitation services to 184,000 people, food security assistance to almost 14,000 households and more than 13,000 migrants; and gender-based violence protection measures, including mental health care, for 24,000 women and children, as well as support for almost half a million migrants.

In addition, a new fund set up by the FinMark Trust will provide income relief to more than 8,000 families in Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe most affected by a drop in remittances from South Africa due to the negative impacts of COVID-19.

Many low-income families in the Southern Africa region rely on remittances from family members based in South Africa.

Estimates indicate that there are up to 3.7 million migrants from Southern African countries living in South Africa, sending R21.9 billion (approximately £1 billion) annually to family members back home.

An average of £15 per month will be provided to families affected by lost income from remittances, helping people meet immediate needs like food, rent, and school fees.

The UK is anchoring the fund with £500,000 in two tranches.

In a statement, James Duddridge MP, UK Minister for Africa, said: “For many communities across Southern Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a health emergency – it is also damaging livelihoods and exacerbating food shortages.”

He added that the support the UK is providing will help families in crisis across Southern Africa many of whom are female-led households improving access to COVID-19 information and basic services, and protecting livelihoods.

“UK action to support the flow of remittances will help those most vulnerable to the economic fallout of COVID-19 across Southern Africa to access the necessary money to meet their immediate needs.”
Brendan Pearce, CEO of FinMark Trust, said families across Southern Africa rely heavily on remittances from their loved ones.

” Amongst these families, the economic fallout of COVID-19 has hit the vulnerable particularly hard, especially women and children. The Southern Africa COVID-19 Remittance Relief Fund has been established to bring much-needed support to these communities. We are working in partnership with financial service providers across the region to make sure that this money reaches those most in need as quickly as possible,” he said.

The Development Director at the British Embassy in Harare, Cate Turton emphasised that this new funding for UK-supported humanitarian assistance for migration-affected communities has come at the right time in Zimbabwe considering that the nation is s facing a plethora of challenges posed by the COVID-19 epidemic.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende