The Impact of COVID-19 on Households in Nepal: Second round of mVAM Household Livelihoods, Food Security and Vulnerability Survey (September 2020)



The second round of the mVAM Household Survey conducted in August 2020 shows food insecurity across the country has decreased slightly compared to April 2020, however it remains higher than 4 years ago. The survey found that 20.2 percent of households had inadequate food consumption and 4.7 percent of households had poor dietary diversity. Overall, 11.8 percent of households adopted at least one negative coping strategy to address food shortages and about 6.7 percent of households reported that the food they had in stock was insufficient to meet their needs. Minimum recommended dietary diversity was not met by about 43.1 percent of children between 6 and 23 months of age.

In comparison, in the first round of mVAM Household Survey conducted in April 2020, 23.2 percent of households had inadequate diet, while based on the Annual Household Survey V (2016/17), 14.9 percent of households consumed an inadequate diet in 2016. Similarly, 7.2 percent of households had poor dietary diversity and around 45.9 percent of children between 6-23 months of age did not meet minimum dietary diversity in April, while in 2016, 5 percent of households had poor dietary diversity.

Sudurpaschim and Karnali provinces, the most food insecure provinces of the country, have the highest proportion of food insecure households, with 23.8 and 23.3 percent of households consuming inadequate diet respectively. Inadequate food consumption was also relatively high in Province 2 (22.1%).

Two thirds of respondents reported to have food stocks, of which nearly 50 percent had more than one-month worth of food stock. Meanwhile, about 54 percent of households acquired food through market purchase and 46 percent relied on their own production for household consumption.

The COVID-19 crisis has continued to negatively impact livelihoods of Nepalese households, with 11 percent of households reporting job loss and 31.2 percent a reduction in income. Income reduction was the highest in Province 1 (40.5%), followed by Sudurpaschim (38.8%) and Province 2 (38.3%), with loss of livelihood reported in Sudurpaschim province (19.3%), Province 1 (18.6%) and Province 2 (14.1%).

While the overall proportion of households reporting income loss increased only marginally (by 0.6%) in August compared to April 2020, more households are reporting severe (11.1%) and moderate (16.5%) income loss in August than April (severe 3.7%; moderate 9.3%). This indicates that the households are facing increasing pressure and that the already precarious situation these households are facing is worsening.

The findings show that both loss of income source and reduction in income was more prevalent in certain types of livelihoods, namely for daily wage labourers both in farm and off-farm sectors, households receiving remittances and small businesses and trade. The most severe income reduction was experienced by daily wage labourers in the off-farm sector, cash and high value crops producers, and large and medium businesses. Likewise, job loss and income reduction was more common among households with a disabled and chronically ill household member.

Similarly, food insecurity was more prevalent among certain types of income sources, namely daily wage laborers in farm and off-farm sectors and migrant workers. Likewise, households with less diversified and more volatile livelihoods were relatively more food insecure. Higher prevalence of food insecurity was found among households that relied on market purchase.

In terms of the socio-economic characteristics, households with low education levels, vulnerable households with a member with a disability, female-headed households, and households living in rural areas were found to be more food insecure.

Overall, job loss and income reduction caused by the COVID-19 crisis affected household food security: inadequate food consumption and food insufficiency were more common among households that reported job loss and income reduction, compared to households that did not experience job loss and income reduction.

More than 20 percent of respondents reported that increases in food price were their major concern during the COVID-19 crisis, followed by shortage of food (16.3%), reduction in income (15.5%) and lack of work opportunities (14.8%).

In total, 12.7 percent of respondents received assistance to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, either from government or non-government organizations. The most common form of assistance was food. Additionally, 11 percent of households interviewed in this survey are recipients of social benefits, mainly senior citizen support, followed by support for single women.

The second round of the nation-wide household survey confirms continued pressure on food security, livelihoods and incomes of Nepalese households. Given that food insecurity was more common among households who reported job loss and income reduction, and more than half of the interviewed households rely on market purchase, the overall vulnerability of households can be further exacerbated. The upcoming harvest and welltargeted mitigation measures will be of critical importance for minimizing the negative and long-term impact on households in Nepal.