Six months ago FinMark Trust, with support from the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), launched The Income Relief Fund for Migrants to provide short term relief to SADC migrants and their families. We noted the limited provision of support to economic migrants in South Africa who send money back home to their family members and decided to act. This is in line with our commitment to positively impact the most vulnerable people across the SADC region. Our goal was to provide income relief to families in SADC countries most affected by the drop in remittances from migrants unable to remit funds. The fund provided households with some temporary relief for the past five months and has so far disbursed ZAR 8,548,976.02 million to 8,536 households in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Eswatini. Of this money 70% of the allocations and collections have been to women in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini and Lesotho.
For countries where remittances account for a large share of GDP, such as Zimbabwe, the overall remittances figures can be misleading. Data from our partners who supply remittances services indicates that the volume of remittances during the harshest phases of our lockdown, between March and April 2020, fell by over 50%. Remittance volumes however increased in May, as lockdown regulations eased but the figures hide the fact that poorer remitters have fallen off and stopped sending althogether. Remitters who were sending less than a thousand Rand (equivalent to 68 US dollars) largely vanished from the ADLA (Authorised Dealers with limited authority) system, implying further vulnerability of these already marginalised people. For Diana, one of the recipients of our Income Relief Fund in Zimbabwe, this means money sent to her from her husband who works as a migrant worker in South Africa, has dried up. She now faces even more challenges as she struggles to survive and provide food and basic necessities to her family. Diana’s story is a reflection of how thousands of women in the SADC region who depend on migrant remittances have been affected by the pandemic. Our research on migrant beneficiaries in the region shows that remittance receivers mostly use money to buy food or groceries indicating basic needs of food and nutrition as the main driver for remittances. This correlates with Diana’s usage of the money she received on basic groceries (cooking oil, washing powder, mealie meal, rice) for her family.
Although we can already see the positive impacts of the Income Relief Fund for Migrants, we know that the women identified for assistance with the Fund are facing many challenges, and there will be long-term implications on their livelihoods. Follow our gender work and wider programmes that address inclusivity, finance and employment soultions at www.finmark.org.za
FinMark Trust is grateful to all who have partnered with us, or assisted in various ways, in getting the allocations to families who need it most.