The Impact of COVID-19 on Remittances and Household Poverty Alleviation for Women in Sub-Saharan Africa

wanico
Posted April 29, 2020

By Wazeh Nicoline Nwenushi |March 31, 2020

 

The highest socio-economic bearing of the corona virus on sub-Saharan Africa households is inevitably the interruption of remittances. Like any other disaster, women and children particularly the girl child shoulder the burden of this interruption. Remittance is money transferred by Africans in the diaspora to families back home for their primary and basic needs, livelihood, education, health subsistence and general living standard improvement. This money does not only constitute a source of sustainable livelihood to many Sub-Saharan African families but also an important and stable source of development finance in the region. Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa households flow in from foreign countries including the USA, Canada, china, UK, Italy, Germany, UAE, Japan and other countries.

According to the World Bank (2019), remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa and other low- and middle-income recipient countries surpass Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and have steadily increased from ($ billions) 32 in 2010, 38 in 2016, 42 in 2017, 47 in 2018 and 49 in 2019. The same report projected a steady increase of 51 and 54 $ billions in remittances to the sub region in 2020 and 2021 respectively but alas this forecast has been nullified by the prevailing global situation which is epitomized by the COVID-19 pandemic and lock down on the world as part of preventive measures recommended by the W.H.O. to contain this killer virus. The above data attests that, the contribution of remittance to the Gross National Income (GNI) of recipient countries, alleviation of difficulties by households in smoothing consumption, access to start ups capitals and their multiplier effects cannot be over emphasized. Hence, the extended confinements, lock down of businesses and other measures prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Center for Diseases Control (CDC) to contain the global corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic,

which have led to the loss of income by migrants providing such remittances has huge consequences on recipient households especially women and girls.

Financial flows from remittances, there is no gainsaying help underprivileged and marginalized vulnerable communities and groups particularly women, girls, the disabled, the marginalized and the elderly to live better and decent lives. These new and decent lifestyles typified by improved daily consumption, access to health care, water and sanitation, acquisition of property especially landed property and investment in micro-enterprises contribute not only to the well-being of the individual recipient household but also accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), other development initiatives and, increase in national growth.

Remittances have triggered the achievement of SDG 1 through the eradication of abject poverty to a proportion of recipient households including men, women, children and people with disabilities. This has led inter alia to the provision of individual household social protection measures to poor and vulnerable families especially women and girls where government has failed. This has equally led to access to basic economic resources including land ownership and control, financial services and inheritance, by women particularly, and other poor and vulnerable groups and help build their resilience and reduce their vulnerabilities to extreme shocks and disasters. This unavoidably dilutes the feminization of poverty and gender discrimination of property ownership, access to finances and entrepreneurship to a certain extent.

Also, remittances have reduced the exposure of beneficiary poor and vulnerable families particularly, women, children especially the girl child, people with disabilities and the elderly to food and nutrition insufficiency which is a milestone in the achievement of SDG 2 on food security, improved nutrition and promotion of sustainable agriculture. The financial assistance from remittances not only enable such households to afford for their daily consumption but also buy farmland for agricultural production and food sustainability. Hitherto vulnerable women and girls exposed to prostitution for survival, forced and early marriages because of hunger, persistence in abusive marriages and relationships and other gender-based

violence have been rescued by remittances to the advantage of gender equality, decent living conditions and general well-being of women and children particularly the girl child.

Through remittances, some poor and vulnerable households have been able to ensure healthy lives and well-being for families especially women, children particularly the girl child, disabled and elderly. This has been manifested in preventable maternal and Neo-natal mortality, sustaining family members with diseases like HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Diabetes, Hepatitis, malaria and others. Giving birth to children in hospitals by these poor and vulnerable families also means vaccinating such children against preventable diseases like poliomyelitis, stunting, malnutrition and their impacts on the families and society at large. This has also improved access to sexual and reproductive health-care-services especially for women and girls in consonance with SDG 3. Providing health facilities and promoting healthy lifestyles for the remittance beneficiary households can mean a reduction in unpaid care work which is generally the responsibility of women.

Increase in school enrollment and the number of years in school for some children from poor and vulnerable households especially for the girl child has been greatly improved through remittances. This has led to effective learning outcomes for both girls and boys, reduction in gender disparities in education, acquisition of vocational and technical skills by both girls and boys which expose both to decent jobs and entrepreneurship among others, thereby accelerating the achievement of SDG 4 to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Education and acquisition of skills by the girl child is a development multiplier and can mean being able to make live choices including decisions on family planning, asserting her sexual and reproductive health and rights; and withstanding and fighting harmful practices and all forms gender discrimination and domestic violence.

Women have been empowered by remittances to buy, own and control landed property in their names. Children who migrate out of the country have strive to buy lands and provide decent housing for their families back at home especially their mothers. This is particularly true of mothers who have single handedly parented their children or lived in abusive relationships to the dislike of their

children who cannot wait to be able to change their lives once they can. Such women have reduced the risk of discriminatory property ownership. Also, being economically empowered which is a precursor for financial independence had led to women being able to fight against gender-based violence (GBV), withstand harmful practices against women and girls such as child early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, widow inheritance, forced prostitution, forced migration of widows due to property deprivation and others. This can also lead to the effective and equal participation of women in many public spaces where decisions concerning the nation and their life choices is taken. Although appointments and elections in most countries are yet to reflect these milestones, countries within the sub-Region like Rwanda and Ethiopia have proven that women’s effective participation in decision making at all levels can accelerate national development and the achievement of SDG 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Fetching water over long distances is known to be one of the woman’s energy and time most consuming activity. Women are known to trek over long distances to fetch water from streams and spring of very doubtful sources and quality where hazardous chemicals and material are dumped for their household consumption and cleaning. Water and sanitation intersect with difficulties faced by women who live in slums and expose them to water borne and other related illnesses. Women are also exposed to sexual assault and rape by perverse men who monitor when these women and girls go to fetch water and abuse them. Through remittances, some women have graduated from these lifestyles, bought portions of land in healthy environments, built decent houses and live decent and healthy lives using well, borehole or conventional tap water, thereby reducing the risk and consequences of living in slums such as exposure to waterborne diseases, contagion, open defecation and others. These improved water and sanitation lifestyles render life easier for family members with disabilities and can also accelerate the achievement of SDG 6 on ensuring the availability and sustainable water and sanitation management for all.

To achieve the 2030 agenda, goal 8 requires states to amid other things promote sustained, inclusive productive and decent work for all citizens, to ensure full and sustainable economic growth.

Remittances to individual Sub-Saharan African households are a huge source of welfare and standard of living improvement. Through remittances, recipient households have been able to invest in micro-enterprises, environmental protection, contribute to their country GDP and improve national per capita. Thus, the global lock down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it consequential disruption of remittances can mean a lot to the recipient families including but not limited to, a decline in living standards, a decrease in labor productivity and unemployment; a deceleration in growth rates and moving farther from the 7% growth rate target for 2030. The remittance disruption economic and social impact of the global corona virus will inevitably have exponential effects on recipient households with women and children particularly the girl child worst hit.

We therefore entreat the United Nations, the Word Bank, G 20 member, African Union, African Development Bank national governments, all stakeholders and development partners to use a gender perspective, (both during and after), in devising COVID-19 response initiatives for the Sub-Saharan African countries.

This story was submitted in response to Dispatches from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Comments 22

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Jill Langhus
Apr 29
Apr 29

Hi Nicoline,

Welcome to World Pulse! How are you and your family? Thanks for sharing this very comprehensive argument and post about how the lack of remittances is affecting women in your region. It definitely is a concern. I hope that you submitted this letter to the UN? How come there has been a downtrend for the lack of remittances to Sub-Saharan countries in recent years, but an increase elsewhere?

I'm looking forward to seeing more stories from you and learning more about your goals and what else you're passionate about, too.

wanico
May 11
May 11

Hello Jill, trust you are doing well and staying safe in this difficult moment. It is our duty to explore the different ways in which this pandemic is affecting the vulnerable masses and the intersection. thank you for your encouragement. I do have a series of write ups in pipeline and will keep them flowing as soon as I can.
concerning what I am passionate about, the well being of women and children particularly the girl child is my passion. I am a gender and development expert with focus on policy issues especially strengthening synergies between different normative frameworks that constitute gender equality instruments at the universal, global and national level for their mutual reinforcement.

Jill Langhus
May 13
May 13

Hello there,

Yes, I'm doing well, thanks. How are you doing?

You're welcome. Thanks for clarifying your purpose and passion. It seems very well defined:-) Keep up the great work.

I hope you have a good, safe week.

Tamarack Verrall
Apr 29
Apr 29

Hello Nicoline,
A big welcome to World Pulse. As we move through this pandemic all of the ways people are affected the most need to become top priority. As Jill has suggested, I hope your letter goes far and wide to have effect, as we hold all those who have developed this world economy, benefitting only a few and leaving the majority out, accountable. You have so clearly outlined a big part of the world economy that has had so little attention. Living in Canada I am very aware of how hard people I am in touch with here, who have moved here recently, have been working to support family in their home countries, and how this lockdown has suddenly cut all of this support off, for a time period we can only guess.
Thank you for laying out this important part of what is happening now.

wanico
May 11
May 11

Hi Verrall,
It is my pleasure joining here. you are right, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our shared vulnerabilities and common humanity and world economy cannot continue to benefit only a few. The world will have to capitalize on this new normal that has been ushered in our lives to understand there is no safe heaven and all our fortresses cannot help us out in certain situations. twisting issues to suit greedy personal interests as some leaders are trying to do is definitely not the solution.

Tamarack Verrall
May 11
May 11

I agree wholeheartedly. So many government and business leaders are busy making money for themselves. My hope lies in our ability now to raise our voices together.
In sisterhood,
Tam (my first name).

Adanna
Apr 30
Apr 30

Welcome to World Pulse Nicoline.
I enjoyed reading your post and is quite insightful on how remittance transferred by Africans in the diaspora to families back home is helping them with their primary and basic needs.
Thank you for sharing.

Love,
Adanna

wanico
May 11
May 11

Hello Adana,
Thank you so very much for finding time to read my post. The time is now or never for us to explore how remittances and other undocumented sources of revenue impact entire families and how COVID-19 has disrupted this lifesaving revenue. Stakeholders will have to capture these shortages in all post COVID-19 reconstruction and bailout policies..

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi

Hi Nicoline,
You are most welcome to world pulse. Thank you so much for your post on this very critical issue that is affecting so many people all over the world. It is very sad that many families in Africa and other parts of the world are starving to death because of this lockdown and their families abroad cannot reach out to them.
Be safe during this very difficult time.

wanico
May 11
May 11

Hello Anita,
Thank you so very much for reading my post. These are neglected realities that need to be captured in all post pandemic policies to reduce the vulnerability an inequality gap.

Chi8629
Apr 30
Apr 30

Thank you for sharing .

wanico
May 11
May 11

your are welcome Chioma

Beth Lacey
May 01
May 01

Welcome to World Pulse. You are telling a very sobering story

wanico
May 11
May 11

Thank you Beth, these sobering stories are part of our reality and the time is now to tell them.

Anita Shrestha
May 03
May 03

Thank you for sharing

wanico
May 11
May 11

Thank you Anita

Metiege Noel Eve
May 03
May 03

Thank you for sharing.

wanico
May 11
May 11

Hello Noel,
Thank you

Thelma obani 2020
May 06
May 06

Welcome to world pulse. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Your story is educative and well understood.. stay safe

wanico
May 11
May 11

Thank you Thelma, stay safe and blessed

Regina Afanwi Young
May 11
May 11

Dear sister Nicoline,
Thanks so much for the great write up. In addition to your recommendation we look forward to more advocacy on economic empowerment of women as a human right so they can always be self reliant. We hope to read more from you

wanico
May 11
May 11

Hello Regina,
Thank you for appreciating my write up. We are indeed working on an advocacy document for the implementation of those recommendations.