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Urgent Policy Action Needed To Curb COVID-19 Impact On Nigerians – World Bank

A file photo of a market in Lagos.

Immediate policy action is needed to curb the long-run impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the lives and livelihoods of Nigerian households, the World Bank has said in a new report.

It stated that the pandemic has hit countries with a health and economic shock whose effects would be felt far into the future, and in countries like Nigeria, the pandemic has continued to affect health outcomes, human-capital accumulation, household poverty and coping strategies, as well as labour-market dynamics.

The report, “COVID-19 in Nigeria: Frontline Data and Pathways for Policy,” shows both the extent of such impacts on Nigerians and promising policy options that could accelerate the nation’s recovery.

It also draws on innovative sources of high-frequency data, namely, the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey (NLPS), to inform the choices that Nigerian leaders now face.

“The COVID-19 crisis has provided a wake-up call to address the long-standing structural challenges that could constrain the government’s ambition to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty,” said Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria.

“There is no time like the present for the country to prepare for future climate and conflict shocks and seize the promise of its young population to lay strong foundations for inclusive growth.”

Escape Poverty

According to the World Bank, the NLPS represents a successful collaboration between the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Data Production and Methods team at the global financial institution.

It was launched in April 2020 – almost immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic began – and has since regularly collected information on key social and economic outcomes, up to 12 times, from households across the country.

The report, the World Bank explains, shows that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for human capital, livelihoods, and welfare are proving to be severe.

It stressed that while many schools have reopened across Nigeria, learning that was lost during the COVID-19 crisis needed to be recouped and some children have not returned to school.

A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television
A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television.

Even though many Nigerians have returned to work, the jobs to which they have shifted – mainly in small-scale non-farm enterprises – may not offer income security, making it difficult for households to escape poverty, the report added.

It raised concern that the pandemic has ushered in associated shocks – especially to food prices – and social protection remained rare, saying households’ food security and their welfare at large were under serious threat.

The report’s findings underscored the urgency of far-reaching reforms to strengthen Nigeria’s economy and development outcomes.

Bedrock For Recovery

It proposed three immediate priorities that could provide the bedrock for recovery, including the rollout of vaccines quickly and equitably to reduce the direct health threat posed by the virus.

The report believes it will be essential to help children remediate the learning losses incurred during the pandemic – by getting them back to school or by finding low-tech remote solutions that work for the poor where such is not possible, as well as expanding social protection to provide short-term relief for the welfare losses Nigerian households are currently facing.

A file photo of the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.

The report also explained how the crisis has provided renewed impetus for the longer-term policies needed to provide sustainable pathways out of poverty.

This includes effecting the macro-economic reforms that could energise job creation and supporting the farm and non-farm enterprises that will dominate employment in Nigeria for many years to come.

However, the report stressed that it would be vital to keep generating fresh data that track Nigeria’s progress out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Evidence from the NLPS and other sources already puts Nigeria’s policymakers in a position of strength, and the country’s unique commitment to phone surveys throughout the COVID-19 crisis has set the standard for high-frequency welfare monitoring,” said Tara Vishwanath, World Bank Lead Economist in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice and co-author of the report.

“Continued investment in producing and then using data – so that the voices of Nigeria’s people can be heard – will be crucial for designing the policies required to build back better.”

By committing to generating and using data in this way, the results of Nigeria’s policy innovations can fully benefit the nation’s citizens and inspire other countries around the region and the globe, the report stated.

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