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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

update Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid