Pakistan in 2020
Of Pakistan’s population of 212 million, nearly half – 45 per cent – are children under 18 years of age.1 With an annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent, the population doubles every 29 years. This puts immense pressure on social services, exacerbated by Pakistan’s rapid urbanization.
In recent years, economic turmoil has affected the wellbeing of Pakistan’s children. The annual GDP growth rate increased from 5.6 per cent in 2016 to 5.8 per cent 2018, and then declined to 0.98 per cent in 2019.
Consumer Price Index inflation rose to 12.6 per cent (2019) from 5.4 per cent in 2018.3 In 2015/2016, a quarter (24.3 per cent) of Pakistanis were below the poverty line,4 however many more are vulnerable to sudden shocks that could drive them into poverty. These may include personal shocks, such as a family health crisis, and broader trends in the national economy.
Nevertheless, since 2018, the Government of Pakistan has driven socioeconomic reforms especially in poverty alleviation, malnutrition, climate change and fiscal policy stabilization. Public Sector Development Programme budget allocations, which accounted for 8 per cent of GDP in 2018/19 have increasingly shifted towards pro-poor spending.
The first case of COVID-19 in Pakistan was reported on 26 February 2020. Ten months later, on the last day of 2020, Pakistan had 479,715 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 10,105 deaths. At this time, the country was in its second wave of the pandemic, with a case positivity rate exceeding 2 per cent and about 2,500 daily cases, after an initial decline to below 500 daily cases from August to October.
The pandemic had severe impacts on services for children across Pakistan, and may have long-lasting effects due to its ongoing economic impacts. A contraction due to the pandemic will leave many Pakistani children at risk, with more household food insecurity and greater vulnerability to exploitation. It is estimated that 126 million people are likely to be pushed into multidimensional poverty due to COVID-19.
While the only major disaster Pakistan confronted in 2020 was its share of the broader COVID-19 crisis, smaller and longrunning emergencies continued to affect children’s wellbeing in different parts of the country. This reinforced the need for communities and government staff to build the resilience to withstand natural and human-made disasters.
In Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces, monsoon floods affected 2.5 million people. About 16,780 families remain displaced from KP’s Merged Districts (KPMD), while in Punjab severe air pollution persisted through the winter. Early rainfall in 2020 provided relief to drought-affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan, however locust infestations increased food insecurity countrywide.