Egyptians look at traditional lanterns sold during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo on Sunday. (Photo: AFP)
People in Africa have started feeling the pinch after many governments extended lockdowns and movement restrictions introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The continent crossed the 1,000 deaths mark on Saturday, with 22,275 cases reported as on Monday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 5,489 have recovered from COVID-19 so far.
In order to cushion the impact of restrictions on the poor, the Kenyan government has released $81 million under a cash transfer program to the vulnerable people, as directed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
While addressing the nation on March 17, Kenyatta said the money will be devoted specifically to cushion the most vulnerable and to protect the healthcare workers. He said the government had identified the households in Nairobi that will receive the weekly stipend.
Speaking in capital Nairobi, Cecilia Riro, a mother of three and a beneficiary of the government's assistance, said she was happy, but felt more needed to be done to help the poor and vulnerable.
"During the weekend, I received a message on my phone saying the government had wired money into my mobile money account. I would like to thank the government but I hope the disbursements will be regular since the restrictions are still in place," Riro said.
"As a single mother, I earn a living by selling food in a kiosk but since the government introduced restrictions a month ago, we are not allowed to open due to social distancing. I have, therefore, been doing deliveries but the money is not enough to feed my children who are back at home after schools were closed due to the virus," Riro added.
As most African countries extend restrictions, which had been announced to curb the spread of the virus, many families are coming under increasing pressure since they have nothing to feed on due to job losses.
Riro said she will use the amount she received from the government to stock up on cereals and food since she is not sure when the restrictions will end.
Despite the hardship, more African governments are extending the restrictions.
While announcing a 14-day extension to the lockdown in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Sunday that though the decision was hard to make, the country had not yet met the conditions set by the World Health Organization to lift the lockdown imposed on March 20.
"The nationwide lockdown, which would have expired at midnight, has been extended by another two weeks to May 3. This has been a very hard decision that my government has had to take reluctantly," Mnangagwa said during a state address.
Zimbabwe, which has confirmed 25 cases and 3 deaths, is battling a hunger crisis. In December, the World Food Programme warned that Zimbabwe was facing its worst hunger crisis in 10 years with half the population being food insecure.
As pressure mounts due to the restrictions, concerns have been raised about the vulnerability of African economies hit hard by the restrictions.
On April 17, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa called for adequate consideration of the vulnerability of city economies as African governments consolidate efforts and define stimulus measures to mitigate the economic impact of the virus.
"Approximately 250 million Africans in informal urban employment within cities will be at risk from the coronavirus. Firms and businesses in African cities are highly vulnerable to COVID-19-related effects, especially SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) which account for 80 percent of employment in Africa," UNECA said in a statement.
"In light of these circumstances, the ECA is proposing specific support to city governments to mitigate and respond to the economic effects of COVID-19, in addition to the immediate health and humanitarian focus," UNECA said.