COVID-19 has had a widespread impact on all aspects of life worldwide. Even after the launch of the vaccination campaign in many countries, the nations have continued to report new COVID-19 cases. The pandemic's economic, social and psychological effects have also been on the rise. Studies have shown that this global public health crisis could increase the number of people living in extreme poverty to more than one billion by 2030. The contagion has already pushed a quarter of a billion into extreme poverty on a global scale. In the high damage scenario, an additional 37 million people may suffer from the problem of malnutrition. This figure includes four million children under the age of five. The global upper secondary school graduation rate is also likely to drop significantly. As the deadly virus disease has already hit all the countries worldwide, especially the developing ones like Nepal, it may be quite difficult for them to achieve the much-hyped Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The pandemic could reverse the positive trends that Nepal had set in regard with eradicating poverty, improving health and education sectors and accelerating economic growth. In its newly unveiled SDG Progress Assessment Report 2016-2019, the National Planning Commission (NPC) states that COVID-19 has the potential of overturning the progress made in most of the SDGs. The 2030 agenda of development includes 17 goals to be achieved. The report adds that the contagion could defer the accomplishment of those goals and reverse the encouraging trends in most SDGs, mainly eradication of poverty, zero hunger, healthy lives, quality education, decent work and economic growth, reducing inequalities and partnership for sustainable development. The report focuses on the situation before the outbreak of the coronavirus disease. It is notable that there has been a steady reduction in the level of poverty nationwide. However, regional and ethnic disparities have continued to exist. Population living below US$ 1.9 a day is 15 per cent.
The report, however, mentions that there had been enormous consequences for livelihoods, mobility, infrastructure and essential services. The national planning body has pointed out the need to readjust strategies for achieving SDGs and fine-tune targets in order to reflect the new normal. Considering the pandemic’s severe economic fallouts, the NPC is now in the process of formulating a rehabilitation strategy to revive the economy in the post coronavirus situation. But the existing data gap has become a real challenge of enforcing the SDGs and their monitoring.
Thus, the poor statistical base has been a major obstacle to the acceleration of the process of development. The NPC now lacks essential data-set of the sub-national governments. As per the report, altogether 169 targets and 479 indicators were adapted in Nepal to evaluate the SDGs’ progress. But the problem is that the statistics are available for only 104 targets and 218 indicators. With the unavailability of the data required for some of the vital parameters like on water quality, water use efficiency and preservation of water-related ecosystems, youth employment and underemployment, and urban infrastructure and green spaces. There is an urgent need to develop a strong statistical base for an effective integration of the SDGs into the development process even at the sub-national levels.