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The International Organization on Migration (IOM) said Tuesday that more than 220,000 migrants have returned to Zimbabwe since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Posting on a social media platform, IOM said the Zimbabwean government and its partners needed to work together to provide for the livelihoods of the returnees and to ensure that they did not fall deeper into crisis.

IOM chief of mission for Zimbabwe Mario Malanca said interventions should be implemented urgently to ensure the returnees’ wellbeing.

“We must, as a matter of urgency, consider and implement interventions that will cushion returning migrants from the negative socio-economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic while providing for sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their home communities,” Malanca said.

Most of the returnees are from neighboring countries, especially South Africa and Botswana.

IOM is providing nurses to help Zimbabwean officials conduct COVID-19 tests while other services include critical risk communications and disease surveillance activities, infection prevention and control, protection, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Reintegration Assistance.

The organization said that in most cases, the decision to return is linked to the impacts of the pandemic, including financial challenges, hunger and loss of accommodation, lack of access to medical assistance, mental health support, identity document issues and the risk of assault in the country where they were working.

The IOM Zimbabwe mission recently launched a 38.9 million U.S. dollars Crisis Response Plan which aims to strengthen COVID-19 preparedness and response capacities.

It also seeks to promote socio-economic reintegration through self-employment, community income projects and livelihood activities targeting about 1.7 million people. Enditem

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