Covid recovery support requires knowing people’s coping responses
Covid-19 has opened up new dimensions impacting socioeconomic factors and presented the world with new challenges to address on the path to attaining the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs), according to a publication by the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh.
While the pandemic pushed new groups of people into poverty, it also resulted in new vulnerabilities that people of certain groups are more susceptible to. They are in dire need of policy support for recovery, said speakers at a virtual Citizen's Platform programme on Tuesday.
One way to move forward is seeking answers to questions that arose during the pandemic, as suggested by the keynote presenter, Sarah Sabin Khan, senior research associate at the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
The questions include which old and new vulnerable population groups are more susceptible to the pandemic, what coping responses have been used at individual and household levels, how effective public policies are in mitigating the impact, and how the pandemic has affected the prospect of achieving SDGs.
Organisers of the event said the platform will conduct three studies on the impact of Covid-19 on the marginalised people. These studies will reveal their coping strategies.
They also said the platform will collect information from people of several classes to find the disaggregated impact of Covid-19. Another study will focus on the progress in achieving SDGs.
Returnee migrants fall under the new vulnerable groups facing job losses while heightened digital divide and domestic violence are examples of the existing vulnerabilities becoming acute.
The coping strategies can also be defined in terms of short- and long-term responses.
While vulnerable households mostly relied on savings, borrowed money and compromised on food consumption as short-term adjustments, the long-term changes that they will adopt depend on social and institutional supports, according to the publication.
Recovery will be more like restoration of the pre-crisis conditions and will make improvements on those. And the communities will become resilient as their capacity to absorb shocks grows through "processes of transformation", the keynote speaker said.
Dr Shantanu Mukherjee, chief at the Policy and Analysis Branch of the Division for Sustainable Development, UN-DESA, said the world should not be returning to pre-Covid state but to something else as even before the pandemic countries had been off the track of SDGs.
Some recoveries will happen at a faster pace than others. For example, the poverty rate may decline fast but key social and health indicators like nutrition and violence will take longer time to get on track.
People of different groups will have different recovery trajectories, and one of the main issues of policies will be whether those will cover enough people, Dr Shantanu said.
Dr Ibrahima Hathie, research director at the Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR), Dakar, Senegal, said it would be difficult to understand the scale of the overlapping vulnerabilities. And there will be groups of people who will be pushed behind like the families of migrant workers, who are not receiving remittance because of the pandemic.
Elisabeth Bollrich, programme head of Global Economy at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Berlin, Germany, said, "We are probably looking to reducing inequality and extreme poverty."
She acknowledged the complexities of the prevailing situation but said recovery and resilience will more likely be keeping the social and economic inequalities intact.
The gap between developed and developing countries will widen due to digital divide, for instance, said Dr Lorena Alcazar Valdivia, senior researcher at the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE), Peru.
For formulating policies, it is necessary to get the answers fast, she added.
Prof Rounaq Jahan, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), stressed the need for reliable data, governance and institutional issues to find the degree of loss in health and economy, inflicted by Covid-19.
"We have a big debate in Bangladesh on the data itself – whether the official data about infection, death is correct or not," she said.
The government failed to introduce and implement some policies while dealing with the pandemic, such as the enforcement of lockdown, isolation and quarantine of returnees from abroad. Some other countries strictly implemented these measures, she added.