Malawi launches cash aid for poor amid COVID-19 pandemic

Government to give $40 monthly payments to about one million people and small businesses affected by COVID-19.

    Malawi launches cash aid for poor amid COVID-19 pandemic
    President Peter Mutharika did not say how long the programme would last [Eldson Chagara/Reuters]

    Malawi will launch an emergency cash transfer programme for about one million people and small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

    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, President Peter Mutharika said on Tuesday.

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

    The impoverished country, which so far has seen 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 $37m funding package to help Malawi respond to the coronavirus.

    The opposition and human rights bodies have criticised 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.

    Life and death in Malawi

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    Life and death in Malawi

    SOURCE: News agencies