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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid