Malawi launches $40 monthly cash transfers to combat coronavirus impact

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Malawi's President Peter Mutharika addresses guests during his inauguration ceremony in Blantyre, Malawi, May 31, 2019.REUTERS/Eldson Chagara/File Photo
File photo: Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika addresses guests during his inauguration ceremony in Blantyre, Malawi, May 31, 2019.REUTERS/Eldson Chagara.

Malawi will launch an emergency cash transfer programme targeting about 1 million people and small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, President Arthur Peter Mutharika said on Tuesday.

Eligible households will receive a 35,000 Malawi kwacha ($40) monthly payment, matching the country’s minimum wage, through mobile cash transfer starting in May, Mutharika said.

“This will strengthen livelihoods,” Mutharika said in a nightly national address on state television, without specifying how long the programme would last.

The low-income country, which so far seen has 36 positive cases of COVID-19 and three deaths, has suffered from economic stagnation in recent years, leading to increasing unrest over falling living standards.

The World Bank said last week it had approved a $37 million funding package to help Malawi respond to the coronavirus.

But the opposition and human rights bodies had already criticized Mutharika’s handling of the outbreak, accusing him of putting partisan interests first.

Malawi’s high court temporarily halted the government’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown pending a judicial review last week. More consultation was needed to prevent harm to the poorest and most vulnerable of society, the court said.

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