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COVID-19 Research in South America
Innovations for Poverty Action is a nonprofit research and policy organization that is working to establish research projects that address inequalities and discover global poverty solutions across 22 countries. The nonprofit organization continues to work with 830 research projects in eight areas: education, financial inclusion, health, peace and recovery, social protection, agriculture, governance and other enterprises. Today, the IPA continues to perform important research projects to present high-quality evidence to policymakers by analyzing results from studies focusing on the impact of financial education in various countries. This extends to COVID-19 research in South America.

IPA Colombia

IPA Colombia has conducted research addressing topics ranging from early childhood development and education to financial inclusion and gender-based violence. From June to August 2020, four researchers partnered with the IPA, Fundación Capital and The Family Compensation Fund of Antioquia to measure the impact of a COVID-19 WhatsApp intervention program on financial health, women’s empowerment and intimate partner violence of low-income individuals in Antioquia. The program originated from a Fundación Capital, IPA and Colombian government partnership that implemented a LISTA financial education program and survey for cash transfer beneficiaries from 2015 to 2016. Following COVID-19, a WhatsApp intervention program emerged and the IPA evaluated 1,549 women and 784 men in a treatment or control study. The interactive WhatsApp treatment program provided communication services, psychosocial support and a financial education program for participants from June to July 2020.

IPA Colombia and Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) Partnerships

The IADB partnered with IPA Colombia to start a Special Permit of Permanence for the Administrative Registry of Venezuelan migrants (PEP-RAMV) research study in September 2020. The PEP-RAMV permit program became open to census registered Venezuelan migrants for two-year temporary work and residence permits starting in July 2018. Researchers compared 4,000 registered or undocumented migrant homes through research, telephone surveys and 42 interviews to help policymakers understand how the permit impacts migrant healthcare and employment as information to base new Colombia migration policies.

The IPA partnered with two IADB researchers in a COVID-19 mitigation strategy compliance evaluation with 1,300 university students in Bogota as a strategy to support Colombia. The researchers partnered with the IPA and Rosario University to inform students about the participant and public benefits of following COVID-19 mitigation policies or controlled classical music treatment. Moreover, the researchers requested to send a participant opinion survey on COVID-19 mitigation strategy compliance to help determine whether COVID-19 mitigation policies should reduce.

IPA Paraguay

For several years, the IPA has worked on research-based projects in Paraguay addressing education and pension programs. From May to July 2020, IPA researchers conducted telephone surveys with 2,035 women entrepreneurs in rural Paraguay to determine whether microfinance loans for the self-employed can help businesses and households build resilience to overcome the impact of COVID-19.  The IPA telephone surveys asked the entrepreneurs interested in microloans about the impact of COVID-19 on their farms or businesses.

UCONN Agricultural and Resource Economics Professor and IPA Researcher, Nathan Fiala, has worked with a Paraguay microfinance organization since 2018. Fiala told The Borgen Project that a 2019 baseline survey addressed women “who have expressed interest in receiving a microloan” before they accessed loans from the Paraguay microfinance organization in 2019. According to Fiala, the IPA joined the project because the microfinance “research that exists out there is not of good quality and we’re trying to improve on the quality of that research” by 2022. Recently, Fiala found that the Paraguay microfinance organization is “expanding certain programming and doing more close work” with the women entrepreneurs based on participant needs.

IPA COVID-19 Response

In 2020, the IPA started the Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) program with multiple partner agencies. The initial inter-agency funded RECOVR survey occurred between May and July 2020 in 10 countries while subsequent surveys were conducted between July and December 2020. The initial survey asked participants about the impact of COVID-19, while subsequent surveys focused on child welfare and domestic violence in August and November 2020 as a strategy to support Colombia.

A Look Ahead: COVID-19 Research in South America

The IPA partnered with the National Planning Department (DNP) of Colombia to observe the impact of the VAT Compensation in a telephone survey for 1,730 beneficiaries and 1,732 non-beneficiary households from June to November 2020. The DNP managed the 75,000 Colombian peso cash transfers before the Department of Social Prosperity took over management to reach 1 million social welfare beneficiary households every five to eight weeks starting on March 31, 2020. The survey found that VAT Compensation beneficiaries were more likely to support COVID-19 precautions than non-beneficiaries.

The IPA has developed 80 COVID-19 response evaluations and an International Growth Centre support partnership for COVID-19 Economic Impact surveys. The surveys helped increase COVID-19 research in South America and inform policymakers about how to regulate COVID-19 policies. Fiala continues to analyze the importance of microfinance loans in rural Paraguay. As the IPA continues to analyze results on the PEP-RAMV study, Colombia began to initiate a 10-year Temporary Statute of Protection for Venezuelan Migrants (TSPV) for approximately 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants in February 2021 as a strategy to support Colombia.

Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr