As new cases of COVID-19 started to rise exponentially in India, Nepal began to see a significant influx of migrant returnee from India. The figures of confirmed COVID-19 cases have been escalating due to this influx of migrant returnees. Nepal is starting to suffer the most unexpected and extensive closure of economic activity due to outbreak of the coronavirus. The impact has already started to surface in a number of sectors such as tourism, trade and production linkages, supply and health. This study was undertaken to identify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the program districts of DCA Nepal. A telephonic survey, with the involvement of 204 HHs, was carried out to collect primary information from Kanchanpur, Kailali, Doti, Achham and Dailekh districts. The survey identifies the impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods HHs food security, market function, WASH practices and; GBV and protection related issues. The survey findings will not only provide DCA Nepal an insight for the prioritization of its ongoing projects, but it will also support to plan the recovery phase.
The study of socio-demographic characteristics of respondents showed that the mean age of the respondents was 34 years, with 62.3% of the respondents being between the age group of 25 to 44 years.
Most of the HHs (45.1%) fall into the vulnerability category of poor/food insecure. 37.7% of the respondent’s stated that they have vulnerable member in their family i.e., elderly people in their HH and 12.3% have a Person with Disability (PwD).
There is a need to revive their livelihoods by creating new income generation opportunities in the communities with special financial and technical support in collaboration with the local government (LG).
The major source of income for livelihood is daily agriculture and non- agricultural wage labour (61.3%) followed by subsistence farming (59.8%) and seasonal employment (17.2%).
The HHs have stated that the key three reasons (multiple responses) for the disruption in their livelihoods activities are (i) closure of market due to lockdown (87.7%),(ii) need to take care of the children due to school closure (66.2%) and (iii) losing agriculture and non-agriculture related wage labour opportunities (41.2%). 47.5% HHs reported that more than half of their HH supplies comes from the market.
There is a need to create livelihood opportunities for the migrant returnees - an environment where they are able to use the skills that they have learnt in their host countries such as cooking, vocational skill for manufacturing industries, modern agriculture practices etc. for income generation. Majority (60%) of the migrant returnees reported that they spent 1-10 years for working abroad. The jobs mainly consisted of working in hotel/restaurants, security guards, cook and “other work” which including working as a receptionist, gardener, care-taker and in the assembly line of factories.
Among the migrant returnees, 99% wish to start a new livelihood in Nepal.
The three main sources of food for the HHs is from their own crop production, livestock rearing and purchasing from the market. Most of the HHs have sufficient food stock for less than 3 months. 52% HHs agreed that COVID-19 has already had an impact on their sustenance, whereas 44.6% HHs are expecting a negative impact if the current situation continues. 53.9% HHs agreed that they are having additional health issues due to food scarcity. The issue of food insufficiency is becoming a big challenge in those communities. Thus, there is a need to address this emerging problem on time.
Mostly male and female adults go to the market to purchase their daily groceries and other requirements. A high number of respondents (64.7%) feel that their marketplaces are not safe from the spread of COVID-19. There is a need to make market centres safe by institutionalizing safety measures, as well as, raising awareness about preparedness and safety measures with the involvement of traders and the consumers. The market centre based public WASH infrastructure such as toilets, community taps, hand washing facilities and public spaces should also be equipped with preparedness measures.
There is a reputable increase in the change observed in the personnel hygiene and menstrual hygiene practices. 68.1% of the respondents stated that WASH items are available at their local markets.
94.6% of the respondents and their family members use soap and water while washing their hands.
Altogether, 68.1% of the respondents stated that the respondents themselves (if female) and female members of their HH use clean and hygienic cloth and 13.7% of the respondents also stated that sanitary pads are disposed of safely. There is still a need to raise aware to the community people regarding WASH and personnel hygiene, menstrual hygiene and reproductive health and also facilitate/advocate with the key market actors and LG to make WASH items available in the local market.
84.3% of adult female have stated feeling stressed followed by teenage female and elderly women. The situation over the alarming increase workload and physical stress due to COVID-19 has called for focused and tailored activities i.e. awareness program for husband and wife, agriculture equipment support, psycho-social counselling and protection related services.
Thus, there is a need to prevent GBV cases through awareness-raising and making GBV services easily accessible to the victims. Some of the potential activities in this regard include i. Engagement with LG and Market actor to establish Gender Responsive Market (ensure women safety and dignity in the marketplace), ii. Strengthening social protection schemes, iii.
Establish referral pathway to strengthen the judicial mechanism etc.
The local media are playing a vital role to raise awareness in the community about the symptoms of COVID-19, preparedness measures and available health services in the event of a suspected COVID-19 case. Of the total respondents, 55.9% of the respondents stated that their main source of information is mainstream media. Of the total, 82.8% of the respondents stated that they and their family members are wearing a facemask regularly, while visiting in public places.
Likewise, 76.5% of the respondents stated that themselves and their family members are washing their hands more often. The awareness message dissemination through those means have also had an impact in people’s behaviour regarding the preventative measures of COVID-19. Thus, continued coordination with the local media is needed to produce and broadcast awareness messages during the pandemic.