Families on the Edge: Low-income families need continued support to recover from the effects of COVID-19

UNFPA and UNICEF embark on longitudinal study to explore effects of pandemic on women and children in low-income urban families in Malaysia

24 August 2020
UNFPA, UNICEF and DM Analytics reps pose with new report

KUALA LUMPUR, 24 August 2020 – Early results of a longitudinal study commissioned by United Nations agencies UNFPA and UNICEF show that low income families in Kuala Lumpur have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The report is conducted in partnership with DM Analytics, a Malaysia-based public policy and research, and is led by Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives, but more so the families, women, and children who are the focus of this study. The government has been bold and innovative in their approach to curb the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic on the population – this is highly appreciated and to be continued. UNICEF, together with UNFPA, are happy to partner with DM Analytics, to study the impact of the pandemic so we can do better, ensuring that no family is left behind“ said Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar, Representative for UNICEF in Malaysia.

Urban low-income families are much more likely to be unemployed, have cut working hours and experience greater challenges in accessing healthcare and home-based learning. COVID-19 has also further exacerbated food insecurity among low income households and forced many low-income families to adopt less healthy diets, thereby threatening to further exacerbate Malaysia’s worsening child malnutrition crisis.

The report showed that low income female-headed households are exceptionally vulnerable, with higher rates of unemployment at 32% compared to the total heads of households. Female headed households also registered lower rates of access to social protection, with 57% having no access compared to 52% of total heads of households. These low rates of access to employment-based social protection suggest a bold rethink of Malaysia’s social protection system will be necessary to prevent COVID-19 exacerbating pre-existing poverty, inequality and social exclusion challenges.

“This report is the first snapshot of the situation of families living in urban low-cost flats in Malaysia. The report highlights the particular plight of women and children in female-headed households, which appear to have been badly affected by the crisis. However, the report also highlights the resilience and dignity of these families, many of whom expressed their strong desire to rebuild their livelihoods. There are also highlights of increased shared responsibilities in the homes. Policy interventions such as PENJANA have helped, but there is a need for more sustained support targeting the women and children who need it the most“, said Marcela Suazo, Representative for UNFPA in Malaysia.

Commissioned in May 2020, this report is the first in a series of reports under the Families on the Edge project and describes the immediate socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on a group of 500 families with children in Kuala Lumpur’s low-cost flats. It also presents preliminary insights on the relevance, adequacy and accessibility of key COVID-19 mitigation policies and other critical social services for this particularly vulnerable group.

The mixed methods study, covering a period of 6 months, involves a socio-economic study, wellbeing interviews, as well as a photography and videography component. Future reports are expected to monitor the extent to which these families recover and offer critical insights for the general public and policymakers as Malaysia aims to ‘build-back-better’.



Notes to the editor:


UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

For more information on UNFPA Malaysia, visit: malaysia.unfpa.org

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About DM Analytics

DM Analytics is a boutique policy research and consulting firm based in Kuala Lumpur. We believe that effective and relevant research should be multi-dimensional and inclusive by incorporating on-the-ground realities to achieve results that really matter.

Media contacts

Rachel Choong
Communications Officer (Media)
UNICEF Malaysia
Tel: +60122932690
Tengku Aira
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Tel: +6012-2567003


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

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