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Indonesia’s most vulnerable hit hardest by deadly COVID-19 Delta surge

By Opportunity International Australia

The livelihoods of millions of vulnerable Indonesians are being decimated by a catastrophic COVID-19 Delta outbreak.

Indonesia is dealing with more than 20,000 COVID-19 Delta cases a day. Hospitals are overwhelmed, causing mass oxygen shortages and price hikes.

The influx of new cases contributes to Southeast Asia’s worst outbreak on record, which continues to devastate India and neighbouring countries.

The Indonesian Government has introduced emergency measures, with lockdowns in Bali and Java. Local authorities are also implementing lockdowns in other regions to restrict movement and curb the virus’s spread.

A loan officer in Indonesia helps an elderly man put on his mask
A loan officer in Indonesia helps an elderly man put on his mask. Image credit: Paimin, KOMIDA

COVID-19 hitting poor Indonesian families the hardest

It’s feared this deadly second wave will push millions of Indonesians further into poverty.

“We’re extremely concerned by the skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, with worst-case projections of a million cases a day by August,” says Simon Lynch, Indonesia Program Director at Opportunity International Australia.

Those forced to live in close proximity have been badly affected. People can’t socially distance when they’re living in small, overcrowded places where COVID-19 spreads easily. When they can’t go out to work, they don’t eat.”

How COVID-19 is affecting our microfinance clients

Opportunity initially provided a moratorium on all loans while we assessed the impact of the pandemic on each family we serve.

“We found that more than two-thirds of our microfinance clients were losing substantial amounts of income, so we provided a range of assistance including information on how to stay safe from COVID19, grants and rescheduled loans,” says Simon.

We further facilitated the provision of food kits, health supplies, personal protective equipment and support for our clients through our networks with other partners.

“Our microfinance clients are really struggling because they have lost access to customers and are therefore forced to eat the food stock they can’t sell in order to survive.

"Many don’t have the capital to withstand an extended shock like this and it will be vital for us to provide funding to help them restock their shops and businesses.”

Resiliency in the face of COVID-19 outbreaks

Today Opportunity supports 1.3 million microfinance clients in Indonesia, with work beginning in the country 45 years ago.

“People living in poverty are incredible at adapting and bouncing back from natural catastrophes - but desperately need our support at this time," Simon said.

Through our microfinance programs, Opportunity is continuing to offer small loans to clients to save and protect their businesses and link them with digital platforms to enable pivoting.

Microfinance will continue to play an important role in the region, through small loans and offering training to clients, helping people living in poverty to survive now, and rebuild after the pandemic," Simon added.

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