The pandemic has reversed decades of progress for many entrepreneurs, as many more people, especially women and girls, have been pushed back into poverty. Many women’s businesses deteriorated as a result of the economic slowdown in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and many women resorted to using their savings to pay for food. As restrictions ease, these women require additional capital to boost their businesses to withstand collapse, rebuilding their source of income to feed their families. We know that more women than ever before urgently need our help, and our teams are working hard to expand our outreach.
As of the 23rd of May 2021, there have been 34,274 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malawi with 1,153 deaths reported to WHO. As of 21st of May 2021, a total of 339,481 vaccine doses have been administered. MicroLoan Malawi recorded four confirmed cases among staff, who all recovered and are now back at work.
On the 18th of January 2021, the government directed that all markets should be closed by 5pm. This resulted in an economic slowdown as many clients maximize their profits after 5pm when people leave work and pass through the markets.
In April 2020, MicroLoan Malawi created a COVID-19 taskforce which disseminates information to staff and clients, reports on risk, and makes recommendations according to government guidelines. To minimize risk, we have reduced our loan group sizes to five members, and only group leaders attend disbursement meetings. The group leader is then tasked with teaching the session’s learnings to their group. Fortunately, new cases of COVID-19 have been declining since mid-February, so it is expected that restrictions on workplaces and marketplaces will soon ease.
As of the 23rd of May 2021, there have been 93,106 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Zambia, with 1,267 deaths reported to WHO. As of the 21st of May 2021, a total of 121,730 vaccine doses have been administered. The Zambian government did not announce any lockdown measures in the first quarter of 2021.
Our clients in Zambia report increased economic activity compared to the end of 2020, and market places are permitted to trade whilst following health guidelines. MicroLoan Zambia’s operations are slowly getting back to normal and we are able to conduct group and centre meetings with clients, providing women with the vital training they need to rebuild their businesses. Zambia received the first vaccine consignment from the COVAX facility and the vaccination programme has begun.
As of the 23rd of May 2021, there have been 38,679 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, with 1,586 deaths reported to WHO. As of the 21st of May 2021, a total of 867,396 vaccine doses have been administered. The COVID-19 situation in Zimbabwe has improved since December 2020 and the number of active cases has dropped. Zimbabwe endured a harsh lockdown with a daily curfew between 8pm and 5am throughout January and February this year. MicroLoan Zimbabwe staff were not able to travel to the communities to recruit new clients or conduct group meetings.
The macroeconomic climate in Zimbabwe is challenging and our operations have been impacted by hyperinflation and a highly unstable local currency. Food insecurity is a significant threat to our clients especially in urban areas where business has been hurt by the lockdown. It is estimated that 4 million people in Zimbabwe are receiving food aid.
Thankfully the restrictions were eased on the 1st of March, and our operations could resume after that date. With the lifting of lockdown and daily curfew, the local markets and cross border trade are opening up once again which instils hope for a better few months to come for business owners. MicroLoan Zimbabwe’s clients are also reporting that there is a rise in economic activity and trade, which is anticipated to increase the demand for MicroLoan’s services. MicroLoan Zimbabwe is one of the only social microfinance providers in the country, as such the organisation is well positioned for growth.
As active cases decline and vaccinations roll out, MicroLoan is determined to reach more women than ever before, whilst supporting our current network of entrepreneurs to rebuild their source of income. With your donation of £63, MicroLoan’s average loan size, one woman will be able to stabilise, protect and rebuild her livelihood.