The lockdown restrictions in Zimbabwe due to COVID-19 has drastically reduced the number of cross border movements. On average, the numbers crossing through the Mutare main border post has dropped from 400 to 250 persons a day. As of 2 February 2021, Zimbabwe had 33,548 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 26,794 recoveries and 1,254 deaths. As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with its partners in health recognized a need to understand the impact mobility within and across borders can potentially have on controlling the spread of the virus. To support these activities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is working closely with the local government of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Health, and the Immigration Department to support the government of Zimbabwe and other key partners with regards to understanding migration flows, as well as to respond to the outbreak in a way that is sensitive to current and emerging migration and mobility realities in multiple regions in Zimbabwe.
The Forbes Border Post is the main crossing point between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. On the Mozambiquan side, the border is located in Machipanda. This border post is mostly characterised with freight traffic from the port city of Beira in Mozambique; however, mobility trends are also characterized by cross border traders who frequent the town to Chimoio and Manica for basic goods such as food and cheap second-hand clothing. Located 263 km to the East of the capital of Zimbabwe, Forbes border post in Mutare is one of the busiest borders in Zimbabwe.
Mutare, which is the border city where the Forbes border post is located, was founded in 1897 as a fort, about 8 km from the border with Mozambique, and is just 290 km from the Mozambican port of Beira, earning Mutare the title of "Zimbabwe's Gateway to the Sea". It is sometimes also called "Gateway to the Eastern Highlands". Many Zimbabwean locals refer to it as 'Kumakomoyo' (place of many mountains). Forbes Border Post is situated about 8 km from Mutare town east of Mutare and a getaway to the Beira corridor and is between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, bordering the Machipanda border on the Mozambique side.
Mapping in Mutare was to complement the Government of Zimbabwe’s National Preparedness and Response plan for COVID-19 by providing the Government, communities, and humanitarian partners with information on population mobility and cross-border movements. Population Mobility Mapping (PMM) aims to inform public health interventions through the analysis of the dynamics and characteristics of population mobility. Flow monitoring aims to derive quantitative estimates of the flow of individuals through specific locations and to collect information about the profiles, intentions and needs of the people moving. More broadly, it aimed to enhance prevention, detection, and response to the spread of infectious diseases through an improved understanding of prevailing human mobility patterns in Zimbabwe and Plumtree Border districts.
The specific objectives of this exercise were to:
Identify the points of entry and congregation areas within Mutare and at its borders with neighboring countries.
Based on estimations on volume of flows and other criteria, provide a list of specific points of entry and congregation areas that are prioritized for public health interventions in times of public health emergency.
Recommend immediate public health interventions for the identified prioritized congregation areas and ports of entry.
Assess the feasibility of implementing Flow Monitoring and recommend locations of Flow Monitoring Points for the purpose of disease surveillance, interventions strengthening health system along mobility corridors and provide information on cross border mobility trends to support Government’s evidence-based migration policy development.
A virtual Participatory Mapping Exercise (PME) was convened on the 21st of January where key stakeholders from the Mutare district committee were present. For this exercise, key stakeholders were selected from the district and local councillors who oversee the community and responsible for day-to-day operations in the community. Participants represented the formal and informal, health and nonhealth sectors, including local authorities, community leaders. Local councillors also assisted in mapping illegal entry points in Mutare which will help in tracking irregular and regular migrants. Key stakeholders from government also participated in the one-day workshop to ensure that flow monitoring points are selected based with their experience in dealing with migrants and flow of people. The mapping exercise was based on their understanding of the nearby countries such as Mozambique, Malawi, DRC and South Africa and local population movement dynamics in the country.
The meeting was conducted in two phases. First, IOM gave an overview presentation of Population Mobility Mapping (PMM) and Flow Monitoring (FM) to participants. The second phase was on discussions on general cross border movements and regional migration routes in relation to Forbes as the entry/exit point, identification of points of entry and identification of points of congregation. The Mutare city health department gave an epidemiological update during the session. Following an overview of flow monitoring, data collection, target areas, and risk of communication emphasizing transmission of COVID 19 and other health related issues, key informants were then encouraged to relate the information shared with situations in their daily lives and contribute their knowledge of their communities by identifying and locating PoEs, axes of mobility (routes) and Points of Congregation (PoCs), to identify places where travellers could interact with each other and/or the local community. Among the key points, participants selected priority sites for the implementation of public health measures and population mobility patterns and dynamics were then characterized.
FINDINGS A total of 23 participants (17 male, 6 female) drawn from the Mutare District Development Committee, Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Immigration, Ministry of Health, Office of President, IOM enumerators and local authorities took part in the workshop. The connections between travellers and stationary communities in the epicentre, main towns, along mobility pathways were examined. Points of interest were allocated into three categories: Points of Congregation of travellers (where internal mobility is experienced such as markets, churches, universities, playgrounds), Points of Entry (PoEs) (border crossings); and major travelling routes connecting these Points of Entries and the Points of Congregations. These points were prioritized based on significant volume of mobility and strong connections to areas reporting Covid-19 cases. A total of 3 points were identified as Flow Monitoring Points (FMPs), of which 1 priority point (the main border post) was selected for immediate response actions and an IOM tent had been pitched there for support in terms of Covid-19 screening; surveillance, hand washing, risk communication and community engagement.
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