The Impact of COVID-19 on Households in Nepal: Third round of mVAM Household Livelihoods, Food Security and Vulnerability Survey (March 2021)

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WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development conducted the third round of the mVAM Household Survey in December 2020. The overall food insecurity across the country has improved compared to April and August 2020, however it remains slightly worse than 4 years ago. The survey result show that 16.8 percent of households had inadequate food consumption and 2.5 percent of households had poor dietary diversity in December 2020. Overall, 7.4 percent of households adopted negative livelihood coping strategy to address food shortages and about 2.7 percent of households reported that the food they had in stock was insufficient to meet their needs. About 42.7 percent of the children between 6-23 months of age did not meet the minimum recommended dietary diversity.

In comparison, 23.2 and 20.2 percent of households had inadequate diet respectively based on the mVAM Household Survey conducted in April and August 2020, while based on the Annual Household Survey V (2016/17), 14.9 percent of households consumed an inadequate diet in 2016. Similarly, 7.2 and 4.7 percent of households had poor dietary diversity in the first and second round of surveys respectively. Around 45.9 and 43.1 percent of children between 6-23 months of age did not meet minimum recommended dietary diversity in April and August respectively.

Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces, the most food insecure provinces of the country, have the highest proportion of food insecure households, with 24.1 and 21.2 percent of households consuming inadequate diet respectively. Inadequate food consumption was also relatively high in Province 2 (16.8%).

Nearly three fourth of respondents reported to have food stocks, of which nearly 50 percent had more than one-month worth of food stock. Meanwhile, nearly 62 percent of households acquired food through market purchase and 38 percent relied on their own production for household consumption.

The surveys showed a reduced yet still notable impact of the COVID-19 crisis on livelihoods of Nepalese households, with 5 percent of households reporting job loss and 21 percent a reduction in income attributed to COVID-19 crisis. Income reduction was the highest in Province 2 (26.7%) and Karnali (23.6%), and loss of livelihoods in Province 2 (6.8%), Bagmati (5.4%) and Lumbini provinces (5.1%).

The results show that loss of income source was found to be more prevalent in certain types of livelihoods such as daily wage labourers in farm and off-farm sectors and tourism sector. Similarly, reduction in income was more prevalent for daily wage labourers in off-farm sector, households receiving remittances and large and medium businesses and trade. The most severe income reduction was experienced by tourism sector, daily wage labourers in the offfarm sector, selling livestock and livestock products, and cash and high value crops producers. Likewise, job loss and income reduction were more common among households with a disabled and chronically ill household member.

Comparable pattern was observed for impact on food security. Food insecurity was more prevalent among certain types of income sources, namely daily wage laborers in farm and offfarm sectors and cereal based agriculture, together with migrant workers. 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 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 negatively 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 17 percent of respondents reported that reduction in income was the major concern during the COVID-19 crisis, followed by getting sick (17.3%), disruption of educational institutions (16.6%), and increase in food prices (16.5%).

Nearly 8 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, 17.5 percent of households interviewed in this survey are recipients of social benefits, mainly senior citizen support, followed by support for single women.

The findings from the survey indicate gradual improvements in terms of the impact of COVID19 crisis on food security and livelihoods. Yet, the aggravated conditions persist and continue to affect Nepalese households. The impact of the COIVD-19 crisis on job loss and income reduction remains notable and can further put pressure on income generation and livelihoods. Such prolonged exposure to adversary conditions, together with the upcoming lean season, can in turn lead to further risk of food insecurity in Nepal, particularly for certain types of households. Adequate and timely response and targeting of assistance will be therefore critical.