Although many lives are being impacted around the world by COVID-19, the economically poor are those most vulnerable in Southeast Asia and beyond. Since the quarantine began in the Philippines in mid-March, police have restricted movement at various checkpoints, and cities in Indonesia and Myanmar are now entering various kinds of quarantine.
Daily life is no longer the same—and may not return for some time. Most businesses are closed, especially micro and small businesses. Households can send out one appointed person to purchase food or medicine in the limited stores open. And for those who cannot afford food, local churches, businesses, and our partnering Local Community Institutions are gathering money and making food packages for people in the immediate neighborhoods and communities.
Some governments within Southeast Asia are also responding through various forms of relief such as delays in taxation or by requiring banks to provide more flexible timeline for loan payments. Some governments have promised to provide a channel to access food—such as a card equivalent to $40 USD per month per person—but actual implementation is no easy endeavor and millions of people have yet to receive funds. As food insecurity and hunger grows, social unrest and burglary is increasing in areas throughout Metro Manila, Jakarta, and other cities around the region. Especially urban slums like Tondo, Manila, are very vulnerable, and the region-wide quarantine lockdown—reminding too many of former days of “martial law”—may only be extended once again. Threats of the government against anyone who protests is causing stresses within communities, and especially for those who have lost their daily wage—and don’t know what the future holds.
“What is happening right now is so new. And we’re still not clearly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. What will be the new normal?” one PW team member recently asked.
Amidst these challenges, we are discerning ways Partners Worldwide and the many business owners and community leaders can continue responding to this crisis—and the longer term recovery process—for people’s livelihoods, jobs, and needs that can be fulfilled in innovative entrepreneurial ways on the ground.
With this current lockdown of COVID-19, we are quickly adjusting to various forms of training, peer-support, connecting with others, and making mentoring more readily available online… even if the businesses may not open for the coming weeks. With the generous time and commitment of the BA team members and the deep wisdom of the LCI leaders, we thank you for helping to serve and equip business owners and entrepreneurs as they anticipate the end of the tunnel.
Crisis is a catalyst for change. For that reason, we never give up as a global network with the calling to end poverty through business. And, more importantly, we never give up since God is at the center of it all and our confidence is in Him.
Dr. John M. Perkins once said, "Refuse to be disillusioned." And, Apostle Paul also instructed the early Christian church in Rome that was under continuous persecution: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need" (Romans 12:12-13). We cling to God’s truth and love in this time and invite you to live out Christ’s love with us in word and action!
Regional Director, Southeast Asia