KATHMANDU, Sept 17: The COVID-19 pandemic threatens hard-won gains in health and education over the past decade, especially in the poorest countries, a new World Bank Group analysis has found.
Investment in human capital — the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives — is key to unlocking a child’s potential and to improving economic growth in every country.
The World Bank Group’s 2020 Human Capital Index shows that pre-pandemic, most countries have made steady progress in building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.
In Nepal, a child born today will be 50 percent as productive when she grows up as she would be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. This is higher than the average for the South Asia region and higher than the average for countries with similar levels of income. This is largely due to an improvement in school enrollment and institutionalization of the measurement of student learning.
“Investment in human capital is just as important as investment in infrastructure, if not more, and brings returns in the form of a healthier and more productive workforce in the long run,” stated Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “There is a need for an accelerated push to focus on investing in human capital in the recovery and rebuilding phases after the pandemic. This requires close collaborations among all three levels of the government in order to bring about large and sustainable changes.”
In Nepal, it is essential to invest more in the early years, with a focus on those children who have been left behind. This includes safeguarding access to nutritious, safe and affordable diets and providing opportunities for learning and stimulation especially for the poorest and most-affected households. Given the current high cost of medical care, resources can be refocused toward ensuring universal access to quality essential primary, emergency and referral health services.
The 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data up to March 2020 for 174 countries covering 98 percent of the world’s population, providing a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education status of children.