As a result of the pandemic, our beneficiaries in Malawi and Zambia face extensive challenges to their livelihoods and well-being. With an average of four dependants per woman, those living in extreme poverty are often living in close quarters, have little access to health care, maintain little or no savings, and rely on livelihoods that involve face-to-face interactions such as selling items in the local market. Basic precautions adhered to in higher income countries are not feasible in developing nations like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. To run their business in a local market, women may forego social distancing in lieu of earning essential income so they can provide food for their families.
MicroLoan Foundation have conducted surveys in Malawi and Zambia to understand the impact of the pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of the women we work with. We interviewed a total of 562 women about their awareness of COVID-19, the impact on their household, their coping mechanisms and how MicroLoan can help.
It is hugely concerning that the economic crisis and government restrictions are causing widespread food insecurity. The presence of COVID-19 and restrictions on movement now threaten food production, supply chains, trade, market access, and employment opportunities in an already precarious economy. These countries were already struggling to feed their populations.
Our key findings were as follows:
- 100% of women interviewed in Malawi say they are experiencing hunger at a time of the year when they would otherwise not.
- 57% of the women interviewed in Zambia say they are experiencing hunger at a time of the year when they would otherwise not.
- The financial situation of households has been severely impacted. All of the women surveyed in Malawi said they are a lot worse off. In Zambia, 63% said they are a lot worse off, and 28% said they were a little worse off.
- 15% of the women in Zambia are no longer running their business. We are uncertain about whether this is due to general poor economic conditions or a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, clients are forced to use coping strategies to survive. These can be divided into positive and negative coping strategies. Positive coping strategies include using savings or finding ways to earn additional income. Negative coping strategies include sinking further into debt, especially debt through loan sharks, selling household assets or reducing the number of meals the family eats.
When asked how MicroLoan can support them, 92% of women in Malawi and 76% of women in Zambia suggested rescheduling of loan repayments, or access to further loans to help them through the pandemic. In response, MicroLoan is restructuring loans and providing top up loans to clients who need it. We are also writing off loans for the hardest hit families.
UN Women has warned that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line, reversing decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty. These are the women that MicroLoan supports.
They need your help.