The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC) – the world’s largest humanitarian and development network – and its member national Red Cross swocieties in the Southern Africa region launched a long-term and intra-region Ubuntu initiative on the 21st of October in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Ubuntu initiative seeks to address migration-related humanitarian challenges while promoting respect for diversity and social inclusion in five priority countries in Southern Africa.
Most illegal migrants face discrimination, lack of access to social services and sometimes abuse. Working with and for vulnerable migrants across the world is one of the long-standing traditions of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. “We have a role in providing humanitarian protection and as¬sistance to those in need irrespective of their legal status,” said Mr. Ken Odur IFRC’s regional representative for Southern Africa Migrants’ needs. “Just like any other human being, migrants must be addressed irrespective of their legal status.”
Although migration has existed since the dawn of humanity, the Red Cross Red Crescent believes it has escalated to become a humanitarian emergency which requires both political and humanitarian responses. The five year Ubuntu programme, which will be implemented by National Societies in Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, will achieve this through adapting their existing areas of work and introducing new approaches in community-based health; disaster preparedness, risk reduction and response; and tracing and family links services. In addition, it will facilitate and promote social inclusion in both migrant and host communities, especially those on major migration routes.
“In recent years, Africa has witnessed an surge in migration due to conflicts, economic problems, natural disasters and other social challenges,” said Mr. Odur. “As a leading humanitarian organisation that believes in saving lives and promoting human dignity, we are calling on governments and other organisations to become aware of this problem and partner with us in facing this challenge head on. Migration is here to stay.”
The Initiative is built on the core values of African culture which include respect for any human being, collectivity and sharing, humility, solidarity, caring, hospitality, and interdependence and is also in line with the Red Cross’ principles of non-discrimination to all persons with humanitarian needs, irrespective of nationality or legal status. The regional offices of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will play a coordination role to support the national Red Cross societies.
“Host countries are battling with increasing problems of negative attitudes and xenophobia as people compete for limited resources and survival opportunities. Intolerance presents alarming challenges to humanitarian organisations and policy-makers, worse still to the migrant and host communities,” said Bruce Mokaya, Regional Cooperation delegate of the ICRC. “For most countries, migration has resulted in national crisis. The Ubuntu breaks this cycle by promoting collaborative efforts towards
Identification of solutions to help both migrant and host communities reduce migration-related vulnerabilities.”
Globally, South Africa ranks second to the United States as the country with the second highest number of asylum seekers. Most of these people originate from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland Somalia, Mozambique as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Angola, Burundi and Rwanda. In May 2008, tensions among communities in South Africa resulted in the deaths of 62 people and displaced tens of thousands more. The membership of the IFRC, which includes the five Red Cross societies, agreed in 2009 to take migration on the agenda for the next ten years.