The global lockdown as a result of the deadly coronavirus has meant that thousands of South Africans remain stranded in countries around the world.
According to Home Away from Home , an organisation formed by a group of South African volunteers , the situation for more than 2 000 citizens remains dire.
Many left the country searching for work, while others wanted to escape the soaring crime rate.
In just five months, the globe has reported more than one million cases of coronavirus, and almost 57 000 deaths.
While countries around the world declared national lockdowns in an attempt to stop the spread, the grounding of flights has left thousands of South Africans stranded in countries around the world.
Home Away from Home is an organisation formed by South African volunteers under the leadership Darren Bergman, the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of International Relations and Co-operation.
Figures released by the organisation suggest that more than 2 500 South Africans are stranded in more than 130 countries. With no accommodation and funds running out, each day away from home is a battle to survive.
For 32-year-old Monja Brink formerly from Cape Town, 2020 was meant to be a fresh start in Thailand.
However, COVID-19 has left her jobless and homeless in a foreign country with little money to survive each passing day.
“Some of us like myself, came here to work, earn a living and start a new life. With Corona, companies have closed and millions have lost their jobs, I am one of them. At the moment I am in an airport motel. Being stuck in a foreign country where you don’t understand their language, food is an issue, it is terrifying. Not knowing when you are going home, I have no work so I have nowhere to turn. No one to help me. I packed up everything in SA, sold everything, left my partner behind, came here for an amazing job opportunity, within 3.5 weeks, all those dreams were crushed. I am on chronic medication, when that runs out, I will not be able to pay for it. “
For other South Africans desperately wanting to return home, obtaining a meal remains a daily struggle. Twenty-two-year-old marketer Tinita Sieberhagen has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and since the outbreak of COVID-19, her health has taken a turn for the worse. Sieberhagen is trapped in Cambodia, a country slowly starting to shutdown, after confirming 116 cases of COVID-19.
” I got diagnosed with ovarian cancer and endometriosis, since being in Cambodia, I have had to put a pause on all my health, because funds have never been enough. Even now, it’s between do I eat or go to the doctor. After the virus broke out, I started getting sick. In February I went to the hospital. I needed treatment, but I needed to out more money down. At the moment my pass port is being held at the hospital. Also suffering from depression, some days I cannot get out of my bed. To be honest, I really just want to go home.”
Twenty-six-year-old Nkosivumile William Tshawe is on a growing list of 120 South Africans stranded in Vietnam. The young teacher from Port Elizabeth remains under lockdown in a country with more than 240 confirmed cases.
Tshwane is now also jobless and is currently being taken care by a fellow South African. Without a plane ticket, the wait to return home will be much longer.
“Some of us need medical help, its not easy – I was on a budget. It should have lasted me two months because I should have received my first salary. This is tough for a lot of people, we have been in isolation for a long time. With finances being low, depression, loneliness, it’s a lot, it’s too much. This is painful, I am one of the people that was almost homeless.”
The International Relations and Co-operation Department (DIRCO) says thus far, South Africans have been repatriated from United Arab Emirates, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Qatar and Nigeria.
In the video below, Minister Naledi Pandor says government is working to bring back South Africans stuck abroad:
Spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele says the process of assisting South Africans to return home will continue.
“We continue to try and find other means to ensure that all South Africans who are stranded are brought back home. We are talking to various governments who are repatriating their citizens from South Africa so that we can use the same flights to bring South Africans back from those countries. We are working hard to ensure that we speak to other governments to allow South Africans to fly to areas where there are many South Africans so that they can be fetched.”
DIRCO says for now, the priority remains to assist those stuck at airports, students and the elderly. For the rest, the wait to be rescued is expected to be long, painful and agonising.