Amidst global COVID-recovery efforts, Nepal faces an uphill battle. As one of the poorest countries in the world, the ongoing pandemic poses the threat of widespread economic collapse and irrevocable damage to the lives of thousands of vulnerable children and families.
It is clear from our work in the region that the impact of COVID-19 on the poorest communities is likely to be long-lasting and far-reaching. Without tailored intervention, a number of serious risks await those Kidasha works tirelessly to support.
The majority of schools are still closed, which means that thousands of the most vulnerable children are being forced to cope without the safety and routine that schools provide - placing them at higher risk of not wanting to return or struggling to re-adjust to school when they do eventually re-open. Even children who are eager to return to school may not be able to do so, due to their parents no longer been being unable to afford the cost of school fees, uniforms, books, etc. To help the most vulnerable children return to school and improve their future life chances, we are:
- Facilitating community based classes in slum areas until schools re-open
- Supplying necessary school materials including uniforms, books, and stationary
- Lobbying schools to reduce or waive fees for the poorest children
To add to these challenges, it is feared that the impact of Nepal's nationwide lockdown on the economy will lead to many children and young people being lured into exploitative labour situations and/or dangerous work on the street, exposing them to a wide range of risk behaviours, and a hugely detrimental impact on their mental wellbeing.
Furthermore, it is forecast that over half of female students may not return to school when they eventually do open, due to pressure to work or being forced into early marriage to help relieve financial strain on their families.
To protect children from these risks, our staff are working around the clock to:
- Identify at-risk children on the streets or living/working in local slums
- Training children living in slums to be ‘peer educators’ to raise awareness among their friends about protecting themselves from the emerging risks
- Support the rehabilitation of street-connected children and victims of exploitation by providing counselling, guidance and a safe place to sleep
- Support children and families in obtaining justice and compensation for exploitation and child labour
Pokhara, having for years relied heavily on tourism, has experienced an unprecedented blow to its economy, diminishing income streams for thousands of people and pushing even more families into poverty.
Likewise, with thousands of families relying on remittances from migrant workers abroad - which last year made up 30% of Nepal's GDP - families are struggling to survive with virtually no income or government support.
To give families a chance of survival amidst these growing challenges, we are working to:
- Provide immediate food and hygiene materials to the most vulnerable families
- Help families access new livelihood opportunities
- Support families to access government support and other local services
Sadly, there is no quick-fix solution to COVID-19 and the devastation it is causing in Nepal. It is imperative that we continue to work to develop long-term solutions to address the systemic, root causes of extreme poverty, now seriously exacerbated by the pandemic.
As always, we are enormously grateful for any help, no matter how large or small, you are able to give.
The Kidasha Team