Emergency Assistance for Zimbabwean Refugees in South Africa

December 1, 2007

In 2007, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans fled into neighbouring countries due to food shortages, near-total collapse of the domestic economy, and continued political repression in Zimbabwe. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 1 million people had fled to South Africa in search of employment and to send food back to their families in Zimbabwe. The majority of the refugees in early 2007 were men, who went without food themselves in order to support their families back home.

This project provided emergency assistance to refugees arriving in South Africa allowing them a smooth transition into the new community.

The funding covered emergency assistance to 613 adults and 60 children in need of care and protection. This included financial assistance and psychosocial support, reference to trauma clinics, identification of children in need of support, distribution of packs to new arrivals, legal support, and counseling. Drop-in shelters were operated, which provided food, and donated clothes were distributed.

REI funding covered the costs of: providing packs (soaps, toothbrushes, daily items) to the new arrivals, assistance to the children, and some administration costs associated with counseling. Beneficiaries were selected according to vulnerability and need, with women, children, and unaccompanied children having priority.


This project enabled 613 Zimbabwean refugees and 60 children to overcome the trauma of arriving in a new country and the challenges that this involves. They could transition to their new life with assistance and advice from the social workers.This was a major achievement, surpassing the objective of assisting 500 refugees and 50 children.

In addition to material assistance, project leaders were able to provide access to financial and psychosocial support. Altogether, more than 2,000 displaced Zimbabweans have received assistance directly and indirectly through this project.