As of 26 November, a total of 32,047 migrants (24,046 on 20 October) have returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries through 10 main points of entry (PoEs), namely Beitbridge, Plumtree, Kazungula, Victoria Falls Land border, Victoria Falls airport, Chirundu, Forbes, Sango, Nyamapanda and Harare 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.
Most returnees arrived through the three points of entry of Beitbridge border post (19,114), Plumtree (4,605) and Harare International airport (5,960). The number of reported returnees continues steady overpassing significantly the 20,000 projected arrivals and is expected to continue to increase with the reopening of borders in December.
Regulations requiring travelers to produce valid COVID-19 test certiﬁcates on arrival have been established. Those without these certiﬁcates are transferred to provincial centres to be tested and granted circulation if negative. Migrants testing positive remain in isolation centres while those testing negatives are being quarantined at home. With schools reopening and examinations taking place, there is an increase of minors returning to the country .
With the number of COVID-19 local transmission increasing there is a need to reinforced surveillance, contact tracing and community hygiene practices and health promotion, especially in border communities, that are more exposed to border jumpers or cross border traders using informal channels.
IOM continues to provide support with health personnel at border isolation facilities in the main POEs Beitbridge, Plumtree, Forbes Chirundu and Nyamapanda for real time separation of COVID-19 symptomatic travelers during entry screening within the POE. The facility provides temporary holding and management in case of positive cases or in need of any health support.
IOM staff and health personnel at the border continues to conduct regular capacity buildings for all front-line workers in preventive measures, case management, IPC and to migrants’ returnees in terms of self-isolation and identiﬁcation of symptoms. IOM has engaged the COVID-19 POE pillar, and relevant stakeholders at POE level to support training in regard to the new guidelines and update standard operating procedures (SoPs), to observe and follow the right direction and changes that apply to people entering the country.
IOM is assisting migrant returnees with reintegration packages, through cash-based interventions (CBI) distribution of NFI kits, hygiene kits, MHM kits and agricultural kits to cover returnees’ basic needs, supporting the reintegration into receiving communities, and to avoid rejection, stigmatization and social tension.
IOM is conducting Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), and health promotion campaigns in 10 districts around Zimbabwe, mainly targeting border communities, to reinforce the need to stay healthy and safe, and respecting COVID-19 prevention measures.
With the new COVID-19 context situation, its socio-economic impact of COVID-19 and signiﬁcant ﬁgures of returning migrants arriving in Zimbabwe, there is a need to improve community surveillance and detection of border jumpers and cross border traders using informal channels, to avoid the spread of the disease in border communities.