The United Kingdom (UK) Wednesday announced that it would provide £7 million support to 750 000 people across eight southern African countries impacted by Covid-19.
The 750 000 people will include 14 000 households and nearly half a million migrants who have been adversely affected by Covid-19 across southern Africa.
Since many low-income families in southern Africa, such as those in Zimbabwe rely on remittances from family members based in South Africa, the new fund will also support the flow of remittances to these vulnerable households.
In a press statement from the UK embassy in Harare said the new funding would be channelled to provide emergency assistance to communities worst affected by Covid-19’s impact in Lesotho, Eswatini, Madagascar, Namibia and South Africa.
Secondly, the fund would also 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.
Zimbabwe will also receive new funding to benefit 115 660 people and two quarantine facilities.
The UK noted the SADC region has been hard-hit by a prolonged drought and Covid-19 further deepened the food insecurity situation, as 18 million people across Southern Africa were at risk of hunger for the year’s remainder.
“Communities in Lesotho, Eswatini, Madagascar, Namibia and South Africa affected by the pandemic will benefit from a £ 6.5 million emergency fund that – through partners UNICEF, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),” read the statement.
These partners will provide water, hygiene and sanitation services to 184 000 people; food security assistance to almost 14 000 households and more than 13 000 migrants.
Other support would include 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.
Additionally, a new fund set up by the FinMark Trust, would 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 southern Africa rely on remittances from family members based in South Africa. Estimates indicate 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,” said the UK embassy.
In the statement, UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP, said for many communities across Southern Africa, the Covid-19 pandemic was not only a health emergency but had damaged livelihoods and exacerbated food shortages.
“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,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer of FinMark Trust, Brendan Pearce, concurred that families across southern Africa rely heavily on remittances from their loved ones, therefore the southern Africa Covid-19 Remittance Relief Fund has been established to bring much-needed support to these communities..
“Amongst these families, the economic fallout of Covid-19 has hit the vulnerable particularly hard, especially women and children. 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.
Development Director at the British Embassy in Harare, Cate Turton, also weighed in that the new funding for UK-supported humanitarian assistance for migration-affected communities in Zimbabwe comes at a crucial time when the country is feeling the effects of a declining economic and humanitarian situation which has been compounded by Covid-19.