FG Urged to Develop Effective Social Protection Systems

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Dike Onwuamaeze
A report by the Nigerian Economic Society Group (NESG) on the, “Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 Lockdown on Households in Nigeria,” has advised the federal government to formulate and implement actionable policies that would strengthen social protection systems in the country.

The report also called for a comprehensive review of the country’s National Crisis Response Mechanisms (NCRM) and the implementation of radical reforms in the education sector, which should include increased funding and digitalisation of the learning process.

It also emphasised the need for increased investment in health infrastructure by stimulating participation from the private sector.
Some of the highlights of the findings from the NESG survey showed that 54.8 per cent of the respondents experienced negative changes in their source of livelihood, ranging from loss of jobs, drop in sales and reduction in salary.

Another 57.8 per cent of the respondents experienced a significant drop in their food consumption while 64.1 per cent cannot provide for their families if lockdown extended beyond four weeks.
According to the NESG, the survey revealed that the overall impact of the lockdown on 72.9 per cent of the respondents indicated that it worsened their financial situation.

It also said that the impact of the lockdown has been devastating as many people lost their jobs and sources of income while others have emptied their savings to cater for their families and loved ones.

The NESG noted that the welfare loss associated with the lockdown would have been moderated by palliative measures if Nigeria had had adequate social security systems to protect the needy and vulnerable groups against economic shocks.

It said: “In terms of the overall impact of the lockdown on the welfare of households, particularly on their finances, data showed that the finances of the overwhelming majority of the respondents have been negatively affected.

“For instance, 38.1 per cent of the respondents indicated that the lockdown has ‘significantly’ worsened their families’ financial situation. Similarly, the COVID-19 Monitoring Survey conducted by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in between April and May 2020, showed that 92 per cent of respondents viewed the COVID-19 as a threat to their household’s finances, whereas 79 per cent of respondents reported that their households’ total income had decreased since mid-March.
“This suggests that the lockdown has further impoverished a number of households, a situation that could worsen the level of poverty in the country in 2020.”

The report also called for effective health insurance coverage in Nigeria as the findings of the survey showed that 71. 4 per cent of its respondents had no form of health insurance scheme, a situation that could have telling implications for the health status of members of households in Nigeria.

“One of the issues exposed by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown in Nigeria is that of the inadequate health insurance coverage in the country. An effective healthcare system depends on quality, accessible, and affordable health insurance,” it added.

The findings of the study, however, revealed that only 17.7 per cent of respondents currently enjoy some form of health insurance while 10.9 per cent of respondents were enrolled under a health insurance scheme but complain of still having to make out-of-pocket expenses to meet most of their healthcare needs.

Furthermore, it pointed out that the lockdown had a negative impact on children’s education. For instance, 67 per cent of applicable respondents indicated that their children education has been negatively impacted by the lockdown.

The federal government had announced the closure of schools in the country in March 2020, and indicated that online learning platforms would be deployed to ensure that pupils and students continued to learn. However, many were skeptical about its workability considering the low internet penetration rate in the country, with data from the NBS revealing that only one in four Nigerians have internet access.

The NESG report quoted a respondent in the survey to have said: “The lockdown has had a big negative impact on my children’s education. They have not learnt as much as they would if they were in school.

“My wife and I have been doing our best to teach them but it’s not been easy. There aren’t any serious efforts by the government to deliver TV or radio classes as it is the case in other states. It’s only recently that the school of one of my children decided to do WhatsApp teaching, which to me personally, has not been effective. So, the impact on the education of my children has been significantly negative.”

Notwithstanding, 60 per cent of the respondents to the survey showed that adult members of the households experienced an increase in learning due to the lockdown.