Responsible Finance Forum

Microfinance in Post-disaster, Post-conflict Areas and Fragile States

Sam Mendelson, Yekbun Gurgoz, Daniel Rozas and Gabriela Erice
01 June 2015
Source:  European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP)

Since its birth in the early 1970s, the modern microfnance sector has torn down many long-held assumptions – Landless, jobless, disposed women can’t be expected to repay their loans. The poor are too poor to save. Banking to the poor is charity. – Each of these notions has been repeatedly proven wrong by trailblazing institutions. The 2015 European Microfnance Award on Microfnance in Post-Disaster, Post-Conflict Areas & Fragile States highlights yet another assumption being torn down. It’s common knowledge that banking requires stability and predictability – After a major natural disaster, banks will struggle to collect on existing loans, let alone disburse new ones.

When faced with persistent terrorist attacks or even an active civil war, banks must close branches, not open new ones. Like the trailblazers before them, many applicants for the Award – 47 in all – have proven these assumptions false. In Haiti, following the most destructive earthquake of the century, MFIs not only survived, but proved crucial conduits for channelling remittances from relatives abroad, often the frst source of cash their clients received. After Typhoon Haiyan – the largest storm on record – ploughed through the Philippines, MFIs took on the role of temporary disaster relief agencies, supplying water and basic goods, and also insurance pay-outs, access to savings, and emergency loans. And when caught in the feld of fre – from Syria to Yemen to Palestine and elsewhere – MFIs stayed and continued to serve their clients. Even when the danger was threatening and unseen, in the form of a raging Ebola epidemic, one MFI (the Award winner) kept its doors open, serving clients with nothing more than rubber gloves and infrared thermometers to protect itself