As a result of prolonged closures of educational institutions in Bangladesh to contain the spread of Covid-19, nearly 6.29 lakh primary and secondary school-going children are expected to drop out of school – for good.
A lack of education will shrink the children's capacity to earn in future, and that will incur a loss of $7.4 billion over a span of 45 years of their lifetime, according to a Unicef report released on Wednesday.
In South Asia, India will suffer the highest loss amounting to $52.8 billion because of school dropouts of more than 7 million children, says the report prepared with support from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Population Fund.
Pakistan is likely to see 0.67 million children leave classroom permanently, while the figure is 0.18 million in Nepal, 0.16 million in Afghanistan and 0.14 million in Sri Lanka.
The overall cost borne by the region in the period will be $63.5 billion.
Unemployment, poverty and food insecurity caused by the pandemic have further undermined public health in six most populous South Asian countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The report recommends reopening schools with safety measures and focus on continued and increased enrollment of vulnerable children, especially girls.
Children should be brought back into a learning environment "soonest before they lose a vital and sensitive year of learning," the report says.
"The government must take up a two-year plan to help recover learning losses and to check the number of dropouts," said Dr Manzoor Ahmed, professor emeritus of Brac University, in an earlier interview with The Business Standard.
Reopening schools safely and implementing a recovery plan at each school will require extra resources, he added.
Bangladesh to spend more than $78 million on Covid tests
Bangladesh is expected to spend more than $78 million by September 2021 on Covid-19 tests, which is the third highest among the South Asian countries.
India will bear the highest cost predicted to be more than $7.8 billion while Pakistan and Nepal will spend $87.41 million and $26.76 million.
The report says that Covid-19 is estimated to have cost the region more than $2.4 billion to date, including the cost of testing and care given to people who have died after 16 days of hospitalisation.
If the current level of testing, infection control and prevention is maintained, the region is expected to spend an additional $8.1 billion by September 2021 on Covid diagnostic tests and healthcare utilisation linked with Covid mortality.