Loan Coordinators on Collection Day
How the world has changed since our last update! The Covid19 virus has been slow to spread in East Africa with the following number of cases reported: Uganda: 81; Kenya: 396 and Tanzania: 480. But the numbers are rising daily and testing is limited so the number of infections could be much higher. Many epidemiologists are expecting the counts in East Africa to explode in the near future. Others aren’t so sure.
The governments in Uganda and Kenya have locked down their countries, closing schools and businesses and prohibiting all but essential travel. Food can still be sold but shopkeepers must isolate. The Kenya government predicts a ramping up of infections in coming weeks, estimating the number of cases could reach 10,000 by the end of April. Meanwhile, the President of Tanzania is still encouraging people to attend crowded church and mosque services, declaring that, "the virus cannot survive in the body of the faithful". The countries in this region are closely connected economically; they have very porous geographic borders and fragile public health systems. The internal situation in each country is sure to spill over into the adjacent states.
WMI's local staff is monitoring the situation closely in each country. They are suspending meetings and loan collections as necessary to comply with government guidelines and to keep themselves and borrowers safe. When lock down measures are lifted we will assess the impact in the various loan hubs and take whatever steps are needed to restructure loans so that the ladies can stay in business.
While lockdown protocols are necessary for reducing the virus' spread and keeping people safe and healthy, and while the government is working tirelessly to ensure the vulnerable are being provided for, it is still important to understand that lockdown and social distancing are temporary mitigations that are easily done in developed nations, but more challenging in developing nations. It is difficult to social distance when you live in a two-room house with multiple family members or have neighbors close by. It becomes a challenge to sustain your family when livelihoods depend on going to the garden every day to ensure your family has something to eat or produce to sell to keep your small business operating. The ability to pause life temporarily is a privilege.
And as you can expect, this has already impacted our borrowers, whose businesses require open air markets and travel, and may not be related to food or medicine, and may not be considered essential services. It has also affected our staff, who often travel on public transportation to reach our office, and loan collection centers. And not to mention the rest of Uganda, which is home to entrepreneurial individuals who live "hand to mouth" and need to work daily to afford something to eat for that day. While some are still able to keep their businesses running, others have had to deal with the effects of temporarily closing their businesses until the situation improves.
East Africa and our WMI program management have their hands full but are proactive and reactive to what is thrown their way. We will weather the storm together.
If you are able, please consider making a donation now so that WMI will have the ability to get lending going again and assist our borrowers as soon as the sanctions are lifted. We’ve made tremendous progress in our effort to lift women and their families from poverty…you can help us to keep the trend going!
Please stay safe!
Photos by Milly Walimbwa, WMI Finance Manager, Buyobo, Uganda
Counting Loan Payments
Village Woman Washing her Hands