A recent food security assessment conducted in Malawi’s four major cities — Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu — shows that over 60 percent of surveyed households had their income decline between March to June 2020.
The assessment, which was published on Tuesday and was conducted by the Famine and Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), a USAid-funded activity, indicates that the decline is due to impacts of Covid-19 on international and local businesses and the economy as a whole — including significant job losses.
Reads the assessment in part: “As a result, many low-income urban households who have few alternative food and income sources are likely facing consumption gaps or engaging in unsustainable coping, with crisis food security outcomes expected in Malawi’s four major cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu.
“As such, humanitarian assistance is needed to fill consumption gaps and protect livelihoods, though an assistance programme for the urban poor — planned by government and partners to start in May 2020 — has to date not been implemented.”
Fewsnet figures indicate that the majority of the surveyed households rely primarily on salary (35percent), small businesses (17 percent), own businesses (10 percent), and skilled trades (8 percent).
Of the 44 percent of households who reported relying on a second source of income, most relied additionally on small businesses (14 percent), petty trade (19 percent), salary (8 percent), and own businesses (8 percent).
However, households in lower wealth quintiles and more dependent on small business and petty trade were disproportionately impacted by reductions in income-earning, with 73 percent of those dependent on these activities (as a first or second source of income) reporting reduced income during the review period.
In April, immediate past president Peter Mutharika announced a K38.9 billion six-month social cash transfer programme, targeting 172 000 households in urban areas with 80 178 in Lilongwe, 66 744 in Blantyre, 17 258 in Mzuzu and 8 703 in Zomba with K35 000 monthly stipends.
He said the K38.9 billion will come from development partners implementing the normal social cash transfers in the country such as European Union, GIZ and KfW.
The programme, which was targeting 35 percent of the urban population and its direct beneficiaries, include vendors, minibus touts, kabaza operators, street children and beggars, petty traders and casual labourers living in densely-populated peri-urban hotspot areas.
However, last month, Ministry of Economic Planning and Development director of poverty reduction and social protection Patricia Zimpita said what remains of the programme, which was earlier scheduled to roll-out in June, was approval of the targeting criteria at the high level.
“We had to finalise on some preparatory activities especially targeting of beneficiaries as well as integrating Covid-19 prevention measures during implementation,” she said.
Meanwhile, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) figures show that during the first half of 2020, 273 000 people have lost their jobs with the figure expected to jump to 680 000 by December.