WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, July 26, 2020/ — IOM, the International Organization for Migration, is providing COVID-19 testing to thousands of truck drivers on Kenya’s borders.
It’s part of a regional and national effort to fight the global COVID-19 pandemic and reopen trade across the East and Horn of Africa. Over 4,500 truck drivers and crews are being tested for the infection in Malaba and Busia on Kenya’s border with Uganda, where border closures had them waiting for weeks to get moving again.
It’s also part of a global effort by IOM.
The COVID-19 pandemic control measures put in place around the world are having an unprecedented impact on human mobility. More than 52,000 extraordinary restrictions to mobility have been put into effect by governments and authorities worldwide, while millions of internal migrants have lost their livelihoods in cities where they had been working and now are returning to their places of origin.
At the same time—across 10 countries in the East and Horn of Africa—tens of thousands of truck drivers have been unable to transport lifesaving and essential goods, including food, water, medicine, medical equipment and supplies—the very items required to meet the needs of vulnerable communities such as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Since the pandemic, governments in the region have struggled to test truck drivers and reduce the spread of the disease, mainly due to inadequate testing capacity. As of 15 July, more than 2,000 truck drivers in the East and Horn of Africa have tested positive for the disease.
“The border points have become hotspots for transmission and the sudden spike of COVID-19 cases,” explained Dr. Rashid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary with Kenya’s Ministry of Health.
The Malaba-Busia border is a crucial location for COVID-19 testing because much of the trade in the region emanates from the billions of dollars’ worth of goods and supplies coming in and out of Kenya’s port at Mombassa.
Moreover, the Malaba-Busia route is a vital trading route for Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, all landlocked countries that depend on the free movement of goods and supplies.
“Trade and migration are connected. People, especially truck drivers who are so vital to trade need to be able to move goods and supplies for economies to function, for employment, for development to continue,” said Sharon Dimanche, Chief of Mission, IOM Kenya. “So, this testing will facilitate trade, which will contribute to the economic recovery from COVID-19 in Kenya and the region.”
According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, 50 per cent of ‘Points of Entry’, or borders in the region remain partially closed due to the pandemic.
The East African Community (EAC) GDP was projected to grow at 5.7 per cent this year. Post COVID-19 projections indicate between 1-3 per cent growth depending on how long the pandemic lasts and how fast the region bounces back. Additionally, cargo along the Northern Corridor has plummeted by an estimated 30 per cent.
“Trade is the lifeline of the economy and many millions of both formal and informal jobs depend on it. By working together closely, the Kenyan and Ugandan Governments are ensuring that trade can continue through the border posts in Busia and Malaba throughout this COVID-19 crisis,” said Frank Matsaert, Chief Executive Officer, TMEA.
The testing by IOM is being carried out in partnership with TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), a development agency founded in 2010 with an aim of growing prosperity in Eastern Africa through increased trade. TMEA is currently implementing a USD 23 million Safe Trade Emergency Facility (STEF) to support Eastern African governments to undertake critical measures along the transport and trade routes that will ensure trade continues safely while protecting livelihoods.
TMEA is committed to supporting the border authorities and border users, to ensure medical compliant trade between adjoining States and the region, Matsaert said, adding, “This partnership with IOM in providing testing at the borders is critical to facilitate the safe continuation of trading activities and especially protecting livelihoods.”
The IOM-TMEA partnership to get truck drivers tested is set to ease the backlog of thousands of trucks stuck at the Malaba-Busia border posts and release hundreds of millions of dollars in essential trade. TMEA has observed a 90 per cent decline of trade for millions of formal and informal micro and small enterprises, mostly women.
IOM is planning to expand COVID-19 testing to thousands of truck drivers in Mombasa in the coming weeks so thousands of truck drivers who start their journeys in the region can move vital supplies and goods from Kenya to as far away as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Furthermore, TMEA is working with the EAC Secretariat to roll out the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) which will enable authorities to share the test results of truck drivers and crew, facilitating information exchange along East African transport corridors