While ‘long-Covid’ has come to mean lingering symptoms among survivors of Covid-19 infections, in Nepal it connotes the long-term socio-economic impact of the pandemic on children.
Even as the Omicron third wave spreads across Nepal, the government is struggling to vaccinate children down to age 12 and protect this vulnerable and unvaccinated age group from the virus. No vaccination has been announced yet for those below 12.
Side by side with that threat, more than one in five Nepali households continue to struggle for food due to lack of money and disruptions in supply caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest findings of a nationwide survey.
The survey showed that in November, 21% of households struggled to obtain enough food, and nearly 10% of them had to reduce the dietary intake of children. However, while 60% of households surveyed in July 2020 said they had lost jobs, this number had declined substantially to 33% by November last year.
Still, this means one-third of Nepali families are at risk of poverty, and this undermines Nepal’s steady success in reducing the rate of absolute poverty over the past two decades.
The tracking survey has been conducted periodically by Sharecast Initiative Nepal with support from UNICEF Nepal since May 2020 to monitor household income, health and education during the pandemic.
The Child and Family Tracker has so far conducted 8 nationwide surveys to monitor and gauge changes in the livelihoods of more than 7,000 households. It tracks their access to jobs, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and children’s access to education, including food intake and health, breastfeeding and pregnant mothers. Nepali Times has partnered with Sharecast Initiative in analysing some of this data over the past two years.
The latest survey shows that nearly one in three families are in need of financial assistance, and many families continue to be indebted. Disaggregated data shows that Dalit families are still more likely to incur debt, require food and financial support as an immediate need.
The number of families reporting loss of jobs worsened in surveys conducted between May and July 2020 (climbing to as much as 60%) but has now come down to 19% in the latest survey conducted in November last year.
A similar situation is seen for other parameters like food shortage and children out of school, with the impact of the lockdowns extending till late 2020, before improving in the past year. The most dramatic impact is seen in the proportion of children who were not studying at all, which came down from a high of 41% in May 2020 to only 3% in November 2021. (See graph below).