The world has witnessed that the COVID-19 pandemic is far more than a health crisis. It has had devastating impacts on all aspects of life, for all people. Nepal is no exception. Renewed focus is needed now to address the socio-economic impacts of the crisis, as well as to look towards long-term recovery that addresses systemic weaknesses and longstanding inequalities. If done right, this will set the stage for accelerated achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Quick action on the part of the Government of Nepal – including a nationwide lockdown beginning on 24 March 2020 – helped to slow the spread of infection during the initial four months and despite the return of a huge number of migrants, the country is now witnessing a rise in cases that requires a continued and sustained health response. Under the Health Sector Emergency Response Plan, prepared by the Ministry of Health and Population, essential healthcare equipment and supplies are provided, and capacity for testing and treatment has increased.
Measures put in place to protect lives have not come without cost, however. Initial lockdown and continued restrictions resulted in the cessation of nearly all economic activities. That impacted jobs and livelihoods. The downstream efects highlight inequalities and are worsened by existing shortcomings in governance and service delivery systems. While all levels of government have already taken important steps to provide shortterm relief – including food aid to more than 1.9 million at-risk households and fnancial assistance to local businesses – concerted and coordinated efort is needed to ensure a full socio-economic recovery.
In this context, the United Nations has designed this Framework for Responding to the SocioEconomic Impacts of COVID-19 in Nepal. The Framework is anchored in government priorities, as articulated by planning and budgeting documents at the national and provincial levels. It aims to complement and build on the government-led response.
The proposed Framework builds on short-term recovery and resilience activities managed by the humanitarian country team. Its preparation is informed by analysis of data and evidence and an understanding of the specifc impacts of the pandemic in the Nepal context. In addition to the collection of data through assessments and surveys, the United Nations consulted 35 groups, including more than 1,000 people representing diferent segments of the population and constituency groups. This evidence has allowed for tailored solutions to respond to specifc needs and necessities created by the COVID-19 crisis. Further, the Framework emphasizes the challenges faced by vulnerable and marginalized populations, ensuring no one is left behind.
The Framework is structured around fve interconnected and reinforcing pillars:
Health First, focusing on the immediate health response, as well as addressing existing challenges in health systems and services.
Protecting People, through increased and more inclusive provision of essential services and building stronger social protection systems.
Economic Response and Recovery, creating jobs and other income-generating opportunities and supporting small businesses to jumpstart the economy.
Social Cohesion and Community Resilience, addressing discrimination, exclusion and other rights against at-risk people and groups, and building resilience to future crises and shocks.
Macroeconomic Response and Multilateral Collaboration, to support inclusive and sustainable growth and bring partners together to ensure more efective cooperation.