It is abundantly clear that COVID-19 is having a terrible impact on South Asia, home to one-quarter of the global population.

In its recent report, Lives Upended, UNICEF has warned that COVID-19 could push an extra 120 million children across South Asia into poverty within just six months.

The report highlights the major challenges being experienced by children in Nepal and other countries in South Asia. The spread of the novel coronavirus and the challenges of responding to it have pushed many families into deeper poverty and vulnerability. The report identifies major challenges, including disrupted health services, increasing food insecurity, problems with water and hygiene and sanitation, and interruptions to education for many children.

In Nepal, the report notes, in more than half the health facilities surveyed by UNFPA, staff were not coming to work, whether out of fear of the virus, a lack of personal protective equipment, or through disruptions to transport and access. “The direct risk to children from the virus is much less than that from the disruption to routine health services,” says UNICEF Health Advisor for South Asia, Paul Ritter.

Within weeks of the lockdown, there were seven outbreaks of measles in different parts of Nepal. These immediate challenges are clear, but equally, if not more, concerning, are the long-term issues, as routine vaccinations and health interventions for children are disrupted or reduced.

Along with these disruptions to health services, Nepal’s children face disruptions to their education and the challenge of maintaining good hygiene when water and soap are scarce, as well as the worsening food and income security so many face.

As the world struggles to respond to this pandemic, please keep Nepal, and this entire region, in mind and in prayer. Let’s remember that, “We are all in this together” and work together to protect the most vulnerable.

 

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