COVID-19 recovery must deliver universal health insurance, safety nets and affordable internet access: UN

Published On: April 30, 2020 11:58 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 30 : The United Nations has urged governments around the world to dramatically overhaul policies and invest in public health, economic stimulus, social safety nets and affordable internet access to help their countries recover faster from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While warning that a patchwork of preexisting solutions won’t work, a new economic report released by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has underscored the need for the governments to coordinate with each other to hasten the recovery. This is a global crisis and working in silos is not an option, it says.  

The report titled“Position Note on the Social and Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Asia-Pacific” calls on countries in the region to avoid returning to the pre-pandemic environmentally unsustainable development path and to capitalize on the opportunity to build a better future. It argues for a new human rights-based, just and fair social contract between governments and people, and advocates social safety nets with a broader reach, universal health insurance and affordable access to digital connectivity as the new normal. 

“While we must focus on the immediate needs of a health crisis, the accompanying economic and social crises also need urgent attention. These feed on pre-pandemic vulnerabilities that will be a fire hard to contain, if not addressed together,” a press statement issued by UNDP's Asia Pacific Regional Bureau quoted the UN Assistant Secretary-General Kanni Wignaraja as saying. “Bold proposals in this report address the multiple shocks together, by proposing a different set of choices today to build a different tomorrow.” 

While both crises are exacting a huge human toll, with a heavy burden and crisis of care falling disproportionately on the shoulders of women, the report calls on governments and businesses to invest in building more sustainable and resilient supply chains and to foster circular and sharing economies, which will allow us to tread lighter on the environment and ecosystems, according to the report.

The report calls for policies and actions that immediately strengthen health systems, to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus and advocates the rapid expansion of social protection measures, to sustain incomes, especially for the most affected and vulnerable. "Governments will need huge resources to bolster public health, for the economic stimulus, and for social safety nets, which will place an enormous strain on budgets," says the report, while calling for the governments to revise priorities reflected in budget revenue, spending and financing to meet the challenge.

UNDP Resident Representative in Nepal Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe said since the government and many other development practitioners have started to analyze the impact of the pandemic on the lives of people in Nepal, they hope the report released by the UNDP's Asia Pacific Regional Bureau will bring some of the early observations from the region. "We hope this will be useful and inform Nepal’s ongoing assessments. The report looks into value chain disruptions, highly impacted sectors and the repercussions on people particularly the migrants, travel, trade, tourism, and informal sector workers. It analyses also the issues related to cashflows, bankruptcies and losses in investment, to name a few," she said. 

Medagangoda-Labe also hoped that some of the learning and good practices from the countries from the region on fiscal stimulus, access to treatment, medicine and care, critical supply chains, technological solutions included in this report would help policy makers in Nepal to shape their own recovery programmes that would leave no one behind.


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