Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) knows no borders and no single approach may produce a successful impact in controlling the pandemic in any country. In Southern Africa, where migration between countries is high mainly from countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to South Africa, there is limited understanding of how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting the social and economic life of migrants and migrant communities. In this article, we share reflections on the impact of COVID-19 on people on the move within Southern Africa land border communities, examine policy, practice, and challenges affecting both the cross-border migrants and host communities. This calls for the need to assess whether the current response has been inclusive enough and does not perpetuate discriminatory responses. The lockdown and travel restrictions imposed during the various waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in SADC countries, more so in South Africa where the migrant population is high, denote that most migrants living with other comorbidities especially HIV/TB and who were enrolled in chronic care in their countries of origin were exposed to challenges of access to continued care. Further, migrants as vulnerable groups have low access to COVID-19 vaccines. This made them more vulnerable to deterioration of preexisting comorbidities and increased the risk of migrants becoming infected with COVID-19. It is unfortunate that certain disease outbreaks have been racialized, creating potential xenophobic environments and fear among migrant populations as well as gender inequalities in access to health care and livelihood. Therefore, a successful COVID-19 response and any future pandemics require a “whole system” approach as well as a regional coordinated humanitarian response approach if the devastating impacts on people on the move are to be lessened and effective control of the pandemic ensured.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Mushomi, J., Palattiyil, G., Bukuluki, P., Sidhva, D., Myburgh, N., Nair, H., Bwambale, M., Tamuzi, J. & Nyasulu, P. 2022, 'Impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis on migrants on the move in Southern Africa: implications for policy and practice', Health Systems & Reform, 8(1), article no: e2019571. https://doi.org/10.1080/23288604.2021.2019571

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Last updated: 06 October 2022
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