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MEDA's Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

Supporting businesses & preventing the spread

MEDA is concerned with the health and safety of all of our partners, staff and clients. At the same time, we know that our work has a tangible impact on business owners and families. As people decrease their movements and change their buying habits, this will impact business.

Our mission is, and will continue to be, creating business solutions to poverty.

MEDA works alongside partners and clients in 26 countries, and everyone is experiencing COVID-19 in different ways. Because of this, we are working with local country directors and field teams and encouraging them to take action based on their local context.

Staff & Security Update:

The safety and health of our staff and partners is our top priority. Since January, MEDA has been proactive in monitoring and responding to the risks associated with the COVID pandemic for both our North American and field offices.

Early in the pandemic, our security department developed a tiered response to ensure our staff and client’s safety. We instituted a global work from home protocol. All travel was suspended. Offices were closed and staff required to work virtually. We implemented a social distancing work schedule/approach for staff. Large meetings and conferences were postponed, cancelled, or moved to a virtual format.

Now - as we better understand the disease, how it’s transmitted and how to protect our staff and clients - we are shaping our next steps in our COVID response.

MEDA Headquarters, in Canada, has instituted the following protocols:

  • Work from home protocol for all of our offices, both in North America and abroad, as of March 16th, 2020.
  • Risk monitoring and staff education to prevent and minimize transmission
  • All international and domestic travel has been suspended
  • Determine and implement a social distancing work schedule/approach for staff
  • Large meetings and conferences postponed, cancelled or moved to a virtual format

For our field operations, MEDA has cautiously begun the planning for limited programming. We are looking for ways to adapt our operations in a COVID context, that ensure our staff and client’s safety – while continuing to build better lives through business solutions to poverty.

Our security department developed a comprehensive approach – that includes risk assessment, programming planning and a series of COVID protective protocols - that guide our response. Field offices wishing to resume limited operations work with our security specialists to undergo a rigorous risk assessment process. If that assessment reveals that some level of programming can be safely resumed, a detailed plan for a phased, limited return to operations is developed. This process is closely monitored by our global Security Management Committee, who review and approve each step in this process. As of July 2020, we are pleased to be able to report that three of our field offices have successfully completed this process, and are now instituting a gradual, limited resumption of field programing.

To our Supporters:

We are grateful for the outpouring of support we continue to see from our donors during these unprecedented times. We know that our current situation has left many in uncertain and challenging circumstances. For those who can continue to support in this new environment – thank you. For those unable to give during these times - we understand. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for MEDA and the clients that we serve and look forward to keeping you up to date in the days and months ahead.

Throughout North America, MEDA Network Hubs continue to call on members and the community to support local businesses and entrepreneurs wherever possible. Hub committees have developed a variety of creative ways for supporters to engage with hubs by way of virtual and blended events. Check out our full list of events. Stay connected by updating your mailing subscriptions.

Watch videos of our recent webinar series Connections

To our Partners & Clients:

We encourage you to rigorously follow the recommended health safety protocols that are applicable in your respective locations, which will allow you to continue your work in a safe manner, to minimize the disruption of work.

Many of you connect regularly, in person, with colleagues and people in your community. We encourage you to change face-to-face meetings to phone or video meetings whenever possible.

Project updates:

MEDA’s response continues to prioritize women’s economic empowerment and “stemming the tide” of potential erosion of gains made by women, across all of our projects.

In Myanmar, IMOW is re-purposing approximately $400,000 of its budget to address the need for short-term stabilization of market actors as a result of COVID-19. This includes supporting MSMEs and Women Sales Agents (WSAs) with one-time operating capital grants and technical assistance, to attempt to stabilize crop aggregation and distribution and address general business challenges. MEDA has organized several socially distanced meetings with both MSMEs and WSAs in Shan and Kayin states to introduce the grants and explain our distribution and monitoring process. MEDA also continues to utilize its local key partners to keep in touch with IMOW clients, such as short and socially distracted visits and communicating more than ever through mobile communications for both phone interviews and sharing information through mobile messaging groups.

MEDA has been promoting awareness of Ethiopia’s treasure trove of gemstones as part of our EMERTA project. This includes providing information on gemstones to the public, advertising the beauty of this natural resource and providing technical and financial support to micro small and medium enterprises in the gemstone sector. The most immediate market opportunity for these businesses has been the thousands of tourists that visit Ethiopia each year.  Unfortunately with the onset of the pandemic, tourism has stopped. The EMERTA team is conducting a study to ascertain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small gemstone businesses to learn how they are surviving in this changed environment with the goal of offering tailored support.

In Tanzania MEDA is working with local partners to manufacture and distribute a second round of face masks to vulnerable populations – particularly elderly and front line workers.

Ukrainian fruit and vegetable exports have fallen by 43% compared to the same period last year because of pandemic (closed borders, supply chain disruptions etc). During this period, Ukraine's revenue from the export of vegetables and fruits has dropped to $ 58.5 million, compared to $ 101.3 million in the same period last year. For the UHBDP clients -women and men smallholder farmers – the pandemic prevented them from selling their early produce because of the lockdown since most of the open markets were closed. This resulted in spoilage and in fact the farmers missed the highest prices for their produce. Due to this, their incomes were reduced. UHBDP has been working with about 500 farmers to help them sell their early produce through social media and has also linked them to more formal horticulture wholesales and retailers.

In Nigeriawomen’s businesses are witnessing difficulties because of lockdowns, social distancing measures and limited operations within the savings and loans groups. Sales are also in a downturn as customers remain quarantined within their homes. Some women are also experiencing domestic violence, which they associate with increased tensions due to economic hardships. MEDA, through partners (Sterling Bank, NIRSAL, NASREEN MFB & Bank of Agriculture), is working to support alternative financial access to help SMEs sustain their farming activities for the 2020 rainy season.

In Ghana, the FEATS project work with government agencies and partners in the formal sector (Dizengoff, COCOBOD, District Assemblies, etc.) was disrupted during the first 4 months. Activities with those partners has resumed since June in many instances. There was however very little impact on engagements with our clients (SMEs and farmer unions), apart from planned training programmes which were partially affected. Some suspended training programmes are now planned to be resumed in August and September 2020. A major adjustment by FEATS project was the intensive use of telephone to engage weekly with SMEs and Farmer Unions. This was crucial in making SMEs and farmers aware that FEATS was still ongoing and this has reflected in healthy reporting of seedling production and distribution.

Frequently Asked Questions

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A call for continued support

The impacts of COVID-19 on our world are unprecedented and far-reaching. The effects are particularly troubling in the emerging economies where MEDA works, where nations are forced to seek a delicate balance between protecting lives and safeguarding livelihoods.

Unfortunate consequences of nationwide lockdowns and social distancing measures include the disruption of agricultural production and supply chains and the reduction or elimination of incomes for many small businesses.

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For small holder farmers, this crisis comes at a critical period of preparation for the coming agricultural season and has interrupted access to key agricultural inputs, like seeds and fertilizer. For others, ready to harvest cash crops – like mangos, cashews, apples - they will experience post-harvest loss and will have difficulty getting to markets. The reduced incomes or lost livelihoods combined with mobility restrictions will make feeding themselves and their families very difficult.

Investment in small business is more important now than ever before. Your support ensures entrepreneurs continue to have access to the resources they need to keep their businesses afloat, feed their families, and, when the dust settles, it will be crucial to helping rebuild robust economies.

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