Assisting Migrant Farm Workers in South Africa to Cope with Cholera Outbreak

Posted: 
03/23/09

With the citrus and tomato harvest season in South Africa about to
start, IOM has begun a cholera awareness campaign among farm
workers in the country's northern provinces of Limpopo and
Mpumalanga to lessen their vulnerability to the disease that has
killed 64 people.

South Africa has had nearly 12,700 cholera cases since the
outbreak hit the country in November 2008, with Limpopo and
Mpumalanga the areas largely affected. The disease has mainly
struck South African and Zimbabwean migrant farm workers, the
latter mainly near the border town of Musina.

Zimbabweans are particularly vulnerable to cholera because of a
similar outbreak, though on a much larger scale in Zimbabwe, and
because they are often subjected to poor working and living
conditions involving long hours and low pay. For many, the only
source of drinking water is rivers and canals. 

During peak farming seasons, such as the period between
mid-April and June, South Africa attracts large numbers of new and
returning Zimbabwean seasonal workers.

Although the number of reported infections is on the decline,
prevention and treatment efforts continue to be essential to curb
further outbreaks and manage reported cases.

In addition to its awareness campaign, IOM has begun a
distribution of non-food items among the farm workers to help them
better cope. In the Nzhelele area of Musina, IOM has partnered with
the Musina Municipality and the El Shadaei Church to distribute
water jerry cans, buckets, laundry soap, bath soap and water
purification material to more than 2,000 vulnerable farm workers
and 1,680 mobile migrants.

Working through farm associations in Musina, IOM will shortly
commence distributions in Weipe, Nwanedi and Mopani.

The distributions and awareness campaign are part of IOM's
overall cholera response in South Africa, funded by the Office of
the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  The
Organization expects to distribute 10,000 hygiene kits for men,
women and minors, including 10,000 jerry cans and 3,000 water
buckets, mostly in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. IOM is also
building 60 ventilated pit latrines in farm areas in order to
improve sanitation conditions and will hire attendants to ensure
their upkeep.

Part of the UN Joint Plan to assist the South African Department
of Health in responding to the cholera outbreak, IOM has also
contributed USD 20,000 to the Department to bolster its national
cholera prevention campaign.

For more information, pleases contact:

Sheika Ali

IOM Pretoria

Tel: +27 12 342 2789

E-mail: "mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]

© IOM 2009