Daily wage earners should brace for five months of reduced access to income due to restrictions on wage-earning opportunities, petty trading and other normal business activities, the Famine and Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) has warned.
In its April 2020 Food Security Outlook Update for the country published at the weekend, the network observed that as the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases continue to increase, the Malawi Government could implement a national lockdown pending the lifting of the current court injunction.
Fewsnet it is anticipated that the availability of agricultural and non-agricultural labour opportunities will likely be below-average and in urban areas, access to income will likely be significantly reduced up to at least September, as the wage-earning activities will largely be prohibited under the lockdown given lingering economic impacts even after restrictions are eased.
Reads the outlook in part: “Given the anticipated impact of a national lockdown, households across wealth groups are expected to experience reduced access to income, with the urban poor likely to be worst-affected given sharp reductions in income earning, including through informal employment such as vending, petty trade, and skilled and unskilled labour and high dependence on market purchases for food.
“Many low-income earners with very little or no savings will immediately find themselves with little to no means of accessing income and food from market purchases.”
Fewsnet estimates that up to 500 000 urban poor require assistance immediately as a lockdown is enforced.
In the absence of assistance, most urban poor households would be left in crisis with consumption gaps likely with outcomes likely to persist through at least September 2020, when a sufficient level of normal economic activity is re-established.
Meanwhile, government has moved in to ease the burden on individuals and small-scale businesses with a cash transfer programme. The move is expected to strengthen livelihood interventions aimed at minimising negative coping mechanisms, according to Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.
The Emergency Cash Transfer, whose implementation begins this month is targeting a minimum of 172 000 households, representing an estimated 35 percent of the urban population in the country. Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development spokesperson William Banda said the programme will help households to meet their basic needs and also to recover from the effects of the restrictions, thereby helping them bounce back to their businesses