International (MNN) — By 2012, as many as 21 million working poor may have newly-acquired life, health and crop insurance. This is all possible because of a $24.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Opportunity International.
The grant will enable Opportunity's subsidiary, the Micro Insurance Agency, to go into 11 new countries within Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
In the 100 poorest countries in the world, only 3 percent of people have insurance. Worldwide, 2.5 billion poor people have no way of getting insurance. According to Micro Insurance Agency's president Richard Leftley, there isn't even a word for insurance in some African languages. Often, the people in these countries need it most since any kind of economic shock to a family could leave them in poverty with seemingly no way out. Flooding, drought, hospitalization, and deaths in the family could be devastating blows.
The typical life insurance policy from MIA costs approximately $1.50 each month and pays a death benefit for the head of the household, spouse, or child. They have also tested crop insurance in drought-prone Malawi with success.
Health insurance will be expanded as well. Leftley said this is the most dire need for the poor, and options are limited for them. Plans are generally complicated and expensive, but MIA would like to develop accessible, affordable health insurance for 2.4 million people.
MIA is grateful for this grant. It's the third grant the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given to them. MIA is the first stand-alone micro-insurance agency. They currently cover 3.3 million lives on two continents. Priya Jaisinghani, program officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said, "The foundation is optimistic about the potential for micro-insurance, and we have a lot to learn about products and services that will truly provide value to people living in poverty. We hope this grant will have tremendous impact by combining learning with doing."