Emergency Response

Emergency Response

Xenophobic Violence Outbreak


Emergency Response

Important note: The information on this page is out of date and is only available for archival purposes.


Mobile classrooms for Education in humanitarian response for Musina

May 2009 - UNICEF has provided 8 mobile classrooms for 2 schools (Renaissance Secondary School and Beitbridge Primary School) in Musina as part of the education emergency response to the chronic situation of Zimbabwean influx to South Africa. With various discussions with the provincial department of education and the circuit manager of the Soutpansburg area it was agreed that the Zimbabwean children would be allowed to access education facilities in the region.
The Musina area has limited number of schools currently with overcrowding in almost all the existing schools and a shortage of teachers; therefore the challenge of integrating learners from Zimbabwe into the schooling system in South Africa especially in Musina is exacerbated. UNICEF agreed to assist the department and the circuit in Musina to provide additional temporary learning spaces in order to allow children from Zimbabwe to go to school.

The initial 8 mobile classrooms of about 60m² each will accommodate about a total of 320 additional learners into the education system.


Humanitarian situation on the border of South Africa

The situation in Musina

The outbreak of cholera which started in Zimbabwe in August 2008 has since spread to neighboring countries, namely Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. In South Africa, the first case was registered on 15th November in Musina town in Limpopo Province situated 15 km from the Zimbabwe border and with a population size of approximately 50,000. Since November, cholera has spread to all nine provinces in South Africa. On 11 December 2008, following the visit of the Minister of Health to Musina, the Government of South Africa declared the Vhembe district - where Musina town is situated - a disaster area.

The cholera outbreak in South Africa is directly linked to the broader humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and forms only one aspect of the crisis. Many Zimbabwean nationals seek asylum in South Africa and this movement of people has helped spread the cholera. In addition, the Limpopo River was found to be contaminated by cholera. Joint efforts by Government and partners have helped to contain the epidemic, but much more remains to be done.

The situation is exacerbated by the clandestine movement of illegal immigrants into South Africa and the inadequate water and sanitation facilities and poor hygiene at the “show ground”, a temporary processing centre (open space) established by SA authorities to review the cases of asylum seekers. Children form part of the increasing number of migrant flows into South Africa and this is an important concern to UNICEF. According to a recent Save the Children Report, there are currently an estimated 2,800 unaccompanied children in the Musina area.

Hundreds of Zimbabweans spend days and nights on end at the show ground under very poor conditions waiting to have their cases reviewed.  Most asylum seekers are men but there are also women and some children. There are no adequate measures in place for the protection of women and children against abuse and exploitation.

Beyond cholera - the situation of women and children in the Musina area

While the cholera outbreak has caught world attention, there is a wider humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region. Children form part of the increasing number of migrant flows into South Africa. A recent study commissioned jointly by Save the Children Alliance, International Rescue Committee and UNICEF found that children arrive from Zimbabwe in South Africa where they have no shelter, where language is a barrier to their integration and schooling and where, without legal status in the country, their access to basic social services are very limited. They are also exposed to abuse and exploitation and are under constant threat of being arrested and deported. Many children reported having been physically abused, including sexual abuse while crossing the border.

Ninety two percent (92%) of the unaccompanied children interviewed in Musina as part of the study live on the streets or in dangerous places such as taxi ranks, bushes and at the border between Musina and Beit Bridge, with all the consequences these places imply for their physical and psychological well being. There are many unaccompanied children, especially girls working in the farming areas. They are exposed to harassment, sexual exploitation, rape and illnesses. The study also found considerable number of single young mothers with babies, with insufficient access to food for themselves and their children. 

National response to date

At the national level the response to the immediate threat of the cholera outbreak is led by a National Multi-sectoral Cholera Outbreak Committee, which comprises the departments of Health, Social Development, Water Affairs, Home Affairs, Provincial and Local Government and Defense; UN agencies – WHO, UNICEF, OCHA, UNHCR, IOM; and NGOs – Doctors without Borders (MSF) and the Red Cross.

In Musina, coordination is done through the existing Joint Operations Committee (JOC) which is a standing coordination mechanism for disaster management under the Musina Municipality. The JOC has five sub-committees - Health, M&E and surveillance, social mobilisation and hygiene promotion, logistics and coordination. 

WHO leads the UN support to prevention and control of the cholera outbreak, with support from UNICEF, IOM, UNHCR, OCHA and other agencies. WHO is leading the overall coordination, the case-management and the disease surveillance components of the cholera crisis, while UNICEF is taking the lead in the areas of Water and Sanitation, Hygiene promotion and Social Mobilization to prevent and contain the spread of the epidemic. The UN Team is working closely with NGO partners on the ground.

UNICEF actions to date

On site, UNICEF has been providing technical support to the development of district response plans on water, sanitation and hygiene through established social mobilisation and environmental health sub groups; and has been involved in monitoring the implementation of identified prevention interventions. 

UNICEF's partners on the ground in Musina are:

  • The Mvula Trust, a local NGO with extensive expertise in the area, to address water, sanitation and hygiene promotion.

  • Save the Children, to address the protection and education needs of children arriving from Zimbabwe, in particular unaccompanied children.

Latest Situational Reports

National Outbreak Committee Situational Report (Sitrep 29) as of 12:00am 11th January 2009 [word] [pdf]

UNICEF South Africa: Situation Report – 29 December 2008 [pdf]

National Outbreak Committee Situational Report (Sitrep 19) as of 12:00am 22nd December 2008 [word] [pdf]

National Outbreak Committee Situational Report (Sitrep 17) as of 10:00pm 19th December 2008 [word] [pdf]


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Information about cholera

What is cholera?
Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by a bacterium called vibrio cholerae. People contract cholera through drinking contaminated water or consuming contaminated food.

How cholera can be prevented?

Preventative measures include:

  • Thorough washing of hands with soap or ash after taking care of a person suffering from cholera, after using the toilet, and before handling, preparing and eating food.
  • Only drinking water from safe sources (tap, borehole, protected well/spring)
  • By disinfecting all water through either boiling or use of water purifying tablets/solutions.
  • By cooking food thoroughly and eating it whilst hot.
  • By storing water in clean containers.
  • By washing all fruits and vegetables under safe running water before eating them.
  • By always using a recommended toilet and keeping it clean.
  • By disposing of all refuse in a properly constructed refuse pit.
  • By avoiding shaking hands at public gatherings, particularly funerals, during a cholera outbreak.

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UNICEF's role in emergencies





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Human interest story


Gift’s Wish: Children dream of a nice meal, a safe home and a family in Musina Read the story>>


  Children on the move

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Cholera Alert poster [pdf]

  10 Jan 2009: The situation of Zimbabwean migrants in Musina.
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Sopo: Children's Best Friend A 12 minute film about Sopo in bubble trouble. A joint production of The Government of Malawi , UNICEF ESARO and UNICEF Malawi.

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