Recurrent natural disasters affect the population of Nepal every year. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has stretched the capacities of local governments responding to these needs, and undermined access to education and livelihoods. In 2020, nearly 8 million children were out of school1 and the country has suffered significant job losses. In 2021, natural disasters and COVID-19 will impact 1.4 million people, including over 568,000 children.2
UNICEF's humanitarian strategy in Nepal is two-pronged, comprehensive, integrated and multi-sectoral. It focuses on (1) preventing morbidity and mortality; and (2) building community resilience.
UNICEF requires US$25.5 million to address the needs of Nepali children and their families.
This funding will allow UNICEF to reach 450,000 children and women with primary health care; 115,000 children under 5 years with critical life-saving nutritious supplements; and 15 million people with life-saving messages on access gender- and disability-sensitive services.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Nepal faces frequent disasters, including floods, landslides, earthquakes and disease outbreaks such as cholera, dengue fever, and now, COVID-19. Every year, more than 500 disasters occur in Nepal that result in loss of life and the destruction of infrastructure and impact people's livelihoods.9 An estimated 2 per cent of gross domestic product is lost every year due to disasters.10 In 2020, Nepal suffered a prolonged monsoon that led to displacements and 314 deaths. There are 111 people missing due to floods and landslides.11 Based on a recent national survey, 12 per cent of children in Nepal are suffering from acute malnutrition, including 2.9 per cent who have severe acute malnutrition (SAM).12 Only 19 per cent of the population has access to a source of improved drinking water that is free of E. coli.13 Disasters exacerbate these challenges and aggravate the impacts on children.
The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding the vulnerabilities of the poor and newly impoverishing others. COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise, reaching nearly 67,000 as of 23 September 2020.8 Larger clusters of cases have been recorded in Kathmandu and other densely populated areas. While it is still difficult to predict the impacts that COVID-19 and natural disasters will have in 2021, projections anticipate a large increase in the number of cases and overlapping impacts on families and children with limited means. For example, many of the children impacted by school closures are also affected by natural disasters, further undermining their access to alternative learning.
As of August 2020, COVID-19 has had serious multidimensional impacts on the population. Sixty-one per cent of households have lost income; one quarter of households are struggling to feed their families; and 11 per cent of children report feelings of anger, irritation and gloominess.14 Death by suicide, which is a growing problem in Nepal, including for children, has been on the rise during the pandemic.7
While many health workers, police officers, social workers and other service providers have continued to provide services during the shutdown, some critical support services have been restricted to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Just 12 per cent of children with SAM have been enrolled in treatment despite signs of growing household food insecurity. 15 The proportion of rape victims who are children has risen to nearly 70 per cent.16 Innovative solutions will be needed to avert the continued decline of services and child well-being.