Zimbabwe, a tough reality after the elections
"Mortality rates in Zimbabwe have skyrocketed in the last two years due to the lack of food. On top of the drought we are suffering, the lack of seeds and fertilizers have made it impossible for farmers to grow any kind of crops, not to mention the barren thousands of hectares of land that were expropriated during the failed agrarian reform President Mugabe passed in 2000. This famine is taking its toll on children and older people, as well as many nationals infected with AIDS whose treatment demands proper nourishment", says Gallagher. Over 6 million people suffer this terrible famine. Unemployment rates reach 80% and tens of thousands of citizens are forced to migrate to neighbouring countries in search of an opportunity. This is the real face of a nation that has once more trusted the polls to call for a change and emerge from the heavy crisis it's been stuck in for the last three decades, although the outcome is uncertain.
The JRS tries to help the thousands of refugees and displaced persons who struggle for a living every day with the help of Entreculturas. Many Zimbabweans are forced to leave their homes and move to Mozambique, one of the poorest nations in the world, to find an alternative.
But life in the countries they are forced to move into isn't pleasant either. As Gallagher points out, displaced persons have to face racist attitudes frequently. For example, in Botswana, Zimbabweans are taken into prison even if they have refugee status. South Africa deported nearly 160,000 Zimbabweans in 2007 because, as the archbishop says, "unfortunately they are accused of stealing jobs and food upon their arrival in South Africa, they suffer harassment and are forced to pay bribes to the police, and they are exploited by cruel employers".
Preventing the flight of educators from Zimbabwe, JRS main goal
The JRS works with displaced Zimbabweans inside the country, mainly children, helping their parents pay for their children's tuition fees. At the same time, Gallagher says, "we do all we can to prevent qualified teachers from fleeing the country (last year over 27,000 educators left the country due to economic issues) because they are essential to give displaced children a quality education and they are, after all, our nation's hope.
The JRS in Zimbabwe works in the refugee camp of Tongogara, in the Southeast, a place where people from nearby areas are taken to. One of the most successful initiatives carried out in Tongogara is a sewing workshop where both male and female refugees make uniforms for the students who attend nearby schools. With this little job JRS seeks to improve integration and self esteem of the refugees, and to teach them some skills that may come in handy in the event they go back to their homes in the future.