Zimbabweans suffer further in S.Africa – aid group

GENEVA (Reuters) – Many of the Zimbabweans who have fled to South Africa seeking better prospects are now struggling to survive, an international aid group said on Tuesday.

In Musina, a South African town 20 km (12 miles) from the Zimbabwe border, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said migrants are bathing, cooking, and sleeping outdoors in close proximity to makeshift toilets, threatening a further spread of the region’s raging cholera epidemic.

An IOM survey of more than 1,000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa — of whom 169 were unaccompanied children — found that "the migrants’ health was further deteriorating after their arrival in South Africa," spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said.

Inaccessible medical care, violence, theft, and deportation fears have compounded problems of those who made the journey from Zimbabwe, during which 30 percent of migrants experienced rape, robbery, or detention, Pandya said.

The Zimbabweans who went to South Africa for work are also struggling to earn money, with only 37 percent able to find work and most getting less than $100 a month — far below South Africa’s average of more than $600 a month, the survey found.

Zimbabwe has suffered economic breakdown under President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980.

It suffers employment levels above 90 percent, its prices double every day, half the 12 million population needs food aid and water-borne cholera has killed nearly 4,000 people and infected more than 80,000 in recent months.

The Geneva-based IOM, which is made up of 125 member states as well as a host of non-governmental groups, said more aid was urgently needed for the Zimbabweans who had left their country, including food, sanitary facilities, and shelter.

The migrants should also be allowed to register for legal permission to stay in South Africa through asylum and other processes to improve their welfare, Pandya said.