The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global crisis hitting virtually every sphere of life. It has killed over one million people and infected more than 39 million across the world. The extended lockdown and prohibitory orders imposed to flatten the virus curb led to the cessation of economic and business activities. This means the loss of livelihoods for millions of people. Those without the social security net have to fend for themselves. In addition to rising fatalities and infections, the coronavirus is pushing about 100 million additional people into extreme poverty by the end of 2020, according to the World Bank. It states that the devastating effects of the pandemic, combined with other natural and economic disasters, play out differently in each country.
Amidst this grim scenario, the countries have recently observed two international events – World Food Day and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The two occasions are very pertinent in the wake of virus flare-up, which has exacerbated both food and livelihood crises on a large-scale. Food and poverty are interlinked because food crisis gives rise to the number of poor people. Both the Days should inspire the nations to forge global cooperation and solidarity to minimise the threats COVID-19 has posed to food security and agricultural livelihoods. It is imperative to sensitise the public for transforming food systems. This requires changing the way we produce, transform, consume and waste our food.
This year the World Food Day has the slogan of “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together” which is fitting to reduce the food crisis caused by the pandemic. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has assured no one remains hungry and no one dies of hunger. The government is effortful to ensure basic food security to the citizens. The constitution has defined the right to food as one of the fundamental rights, and policies and laws have been adopted accordingly. In a similar manner, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty carries the theme: Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all. As COVID-19 has risked the life of the poorest most owing to their least access to quality health services, the call for social and environmental justice to them is quite significant in this time of extraordinary crisis.
Nepal government has attached high priority to eradicating poverty. It seeks to bring down the population below the line of poverty at 18.7 per cent to less than 5 per cent in the next 10 years and zero per cent in 23 years. It has the lofty goal of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali, which can be fulfilled only when the country succeeds in ending poverty. PM Oli has noted that the government has focused on the development of agriculture and industries, employment generation, entrepreneurship, social security and just distribution of opportunities. It is striving to reach out to the segments of impoverished population, with an array of people-centric programmes. Nepal’s constitution has envisioned a socialist-oriented economy so as to deliver stability, peace and prosperity to the people. Of course, this is a tall order but it can be carried out with strong political will, commitment and judicious allocation of resources.