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 Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs