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Joint Market Monitoring Initiative (JMMI): Cross-crisis analysis of price trends and market functionality throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (November 2021)

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As of late October 2021, observers of the COVID-19 pandemic had recorded 247 million cases of the disease and 5 million deaths worldwide since December 2019. In its first two years, the global pandemic exposed deep socioeconomic inequalities within and among nearly every country it touched, negatively affecting poorer populations’ access to everything from income-generating opportunities to medical facilities to basic protective supplies to vaccination against the disease.

The most visible economic impact of the pandemic has come in the form of global shortages of key market commodities, stemming from border closures, understaffing at key producers and export facilities, and breakdowns at every stage of international supply chains. For crisis-affected populations, however, an even more potent economic challenge has been the unintended—or, in some cases, deliberate—side effects of ordinances imposed to protect public health. Restrictions on freedom of movement, mandatory closures of non-essential businesses, bans on the use of public transportation, limitations on daily labour, and constraints on the number of vendors and customers allowed to enter marketplaces have disproportionately affected the poorest members of society, in many cases cutting them off entirely from their livelihoods and their ability to afford basic goods to support their families.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in conjunction with Cash Working Groups (CWGs) worldwide, REACH has been collecting market data through its Joint Market Monitoring Initiatives (JMMIs): response-level monitoring platforms that bring together many actors working in humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVA) to jointly collect data on key commodities and marketplaces. These JMMIs are generally constructed around the commodities and services included in local Minimum Expenditure Baskets (MEBs) and Survival Minimum Expenditure Baskets (SMEBs), calculating MEB or SMEB costs over time and tracking changes in key indicators on market functionality.

This factsheet aims to use historical JMMI data to quantify some of the major changes observed in markets in humanitarian contexts between January 2020 and August 2021. The analysis revolves around cross-crisis comparisons of key indicators with the goal of discovering common trends, as well as developing initial, non-causational hypotheses around which of these trends may be connected with the global COVID-19 pandemic and which are more likely to stem from local or national dynamics.