News / Africa

IFRC to Launch 5-Year Social Inclusion Initiative in S. Africa

African migrants, displaced by anti-foreigner violence in Johannesburg, warm their hands around a small fire, May 2008 (file photo).
African migrants, displaced by anti-foreigner violence in Johannesburg, warm their hands around a small fire, May 2008 (file photo).
Delia Robertson

The International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, has launched a five-year initiative in southern Africa to address humanitarian issues arising from mass migration.  The Societies plan to use their community-based volunteers to facilitate social inclusion in communities that are sending or receiving migrants.

In May 2008, an outbreak of mostly anti-migrant violence, centered around Johannesburg, killed 62 people, injured hundreds more and displaced about 16,000.  Even though one-third of those killed were South African, the events of that month highlighted the ongoing problem of xenophobia in the country.

Following the end of apartheid, African migrants streamed into the country, with relatively few seeking to normalize their status by applying for asylum or other legal residence documents.  Many of these individuals moved into traditionally poor black communities, where there were already shortages of housing, clinics, schools, and municipal services and where millions live on the fringes in informal settlements.

There was a perception among people in these deprived communities, sometimes based on fact and sometimes not, that they now had to compete for scarce resources with the growing number of foreign nationals.  That tension, coupled with high levels of crime, helped spark the May 2008 violence.

In late 2009 the South African Red Cross launched a study in communities affected by the 2008 violence to further understanding of what had happened.

Winnie Ndebele, the group's acting secretary-general, says the study revealed that South Africans were feeling increasingly uncertain and threatened themselves.

“I am just saying from the study we were surprised to get what people were telling us, how much they were threatened themselves," she says. "And then we could see that actually some of them were victimized or they were victims - they were either victimized by foreign nationals or they were victims of the whole circumstances, as it was happening at that time.”

Now the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies want to work with communities in South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe to emphasize the positive aspects of migration while also seeking to counteract its negative effects.

The five year program will be known as Ubuntu, a South African humanist philosophy described by Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu as the essence of being human.  The philosophy emphasizes that people are interconnected and cannot exist in in isolation.

Ken Odur, IFRC Regional Representative, says "ubuntu" describes what the societies hope to achieve in communities either receiving or sending migrants, that being socially inclusive can bring benefits.

“Some of big economies in the world today were actually built by the expertise and the capital of migrants," he said. "So there could be a mutually reinforcing argument here to say look, if migration is well managed, it can be beneficial.”

Odur says that because the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the five countries were established through acts of parliament, they have unique relationships with their governments which they will use to benefit the Ubuntu initiative.

“So we will do mobilization and social mobilization at various levels, at the community level, and also at the highest levels of government.  I think our best advocate is our work," Odur added. "When disaster strikes, governments realize that they have a key partner in the Red Cross and through that it opens doors for more dialogue.  So yes indeed, governments realize that we have a role to play and they have been engaging with us on a number of occasions.”

Ndebele says the South African society has already started training its volunteers, and started programs in local communities and hopes to help the other countries do the same.

“This is exactly what we want to do in Ubuntu; we don’t want to work in [information] silos because as I [told] you we have started in South Africa through our volunteers, but we want to do it in collaboration with other countries, so that we have one message that is very effective to our people who are victimized through displacement,” she said.

Regional representative Odur says Ubuntu should begin yielding positive results within a year, but that benefits will accumulate over time.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs