The second wave of COVID-19 in Nepal is showing severe impacts among the most vulnerable people in Nepal in aspects such as their livelihood, food security and nutrition, health, and education.

According to a report on 'Multi-sectoral Impact of the COV- ID-19 Second Wave in Nepal, 2021' recently published by World Vision International, restrictions on movement and lockdowns have affected all aspects of life, from the ability to earn a living, attend school,purchase food and medicines, and provide access to health services and routine vaccinations.

The report's analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on households affirms the need to expedite multi-sectoral response in the midst of the ongoing effects of COV- ID-19.

At the time of the household survey conducted by WVI, Nepal was experiencing the second wave of COVID-19 and reporting low rates of vaccination. As per the report, restrictions on the movement of people and commodities have significantly affected the most-vulnerable groups, which include women, persons with disabilities, primary food producers, daily wage earners, remittances from India and migrant workers, informal sector and those living outside the Tarai areas.

Negative coping mechanisms during the second wave of COV- ID-19 indicate an increase in vulnerability and reduction in resilience, thereby escalating the crisis situation. The report said income was reduced by two-thirds (from Rs 15,000 to Rs 5,000) due to the coronavirus crisis. As many as 86 per cent of respondents took loans, 22 per cent reduced consumption and 17 per cent sold non-essential household items. Severe food insecurity has almost doubled due to COVID-19 (from 19 per cent prior to the pandemic to 35 per cent during the second wave).

"On average, female-headed households (39 per cent) faced severe food insecurity compared to male-headed households (33 per cent). A total of 72 per cent households do not have access to minimum food diversity. Only 56 per cent of the respondents were able to meet the essential needs of their family," it said.

As many as 85 per cent of the respondents from Karnali Province and Province 2 reported that their income was affected by COVID-19. Forty-seven per cent and 33 per cent of people were unable to meet their daily needs and 58 per cent and 54 per cent of people faced severe food insecurity in Karnali Province and Province 2 respectively.

A total of 80 per cent female-headed households reported that their income had been negatively affected by COV- ID-19. Agricultural products (57 per cent), daily wages (49 per cent) and remittances from India (16 per cent) were among the worst-hit sectors.

Expenditure on education decreased significantly during COVID-19 from being a prime source of expenditure amongst 89.8 per cent of respondents to 46 per cent, expenditure on food remained consistent, and expenditure on health dropped by 5 per cent.

Similarly, prolonged lockdowns restricted the movement of people and their ability to earn livelihoods and access essentials.

Limited provision and accessibility of social protection schemes are the contributing factors for food insecurity status in Nepal. The rapid assessment reported that only 64 per cent eligible households had been continuously receiving social security benefits during the pandemic.

The functioning of social protection schemes is still relatively limited in Nepal compared to other countries as significant percentage of the workforce engaged in non-formal sector are not eligible for majority of the existing schemes.

According to the report, only 59 per cent people had access to household hygiene and cleaning products during the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby increasing the possibility of spreading infectious diseases amongst 40 per cent of the households.

There have been concerns regarding the lower rates of routine immunisation, lower COVID-19 testing rates, lack of access to medicines, low income, travel restrictions, unavailability of health workers and fear of transmission of the disease while seeking services. "Most children are staying at home as the schools have remain closed due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The ability of caregivers to support learning at home and the accessibility of learning tools – online, virtual, and physical – varies in various parts of the country, which significantly affects the vulnerable rural households.

Learning and skills development of the students has been affected, thereby impacting student assessment and causing high drop-out rates and advancement into upper grades without proper development of necessary skills," the report read.

Various suggestions have been included in the report to resolve the problems facing people due to the pandemic.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 3 2021, of The Himalayan Times.