The COVID-19 crisis has sent shock waves across the region, upending lives, plunging families into economic precarity, compounding the existing learning and nutrition crises and propelling anxiety disorders among children to an all-time high.
Food and energy prices have spiked, impacting the most vulnerable families first. A devastating new war and humanitarian crisis in Europe has threatened international stability. And record heatwaves and catastrophic floods have led to a scale of climate devastation in the region unlike anything we have seen before.
Our new report, Responding today for tomorrow, collects evidence and draws lessons on how progress for children can be sustained in the face of multiple overlapping shocks.
Our analysis is resolutely optimistic, befitting a region where economic growth and social progress was strong before the pandemic. Indeed, South Asia has emerged from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 relatively swiftly - thanks in part to a host of impressive achievements, such as immunizing over 1 billion people and expanding income, food and livelihood support to an additional 400 million.
Still today, South Asia is one of the few regions in the world where prospects for economic growth remain. Acting now to make cost-effective investments in children’s health, nutrition, learning, safety and well-being is one of the most surefire ways to secure long-term social and economic growth for the region.
Such investments need not be costly, but they must be strategic, focusing particularly on safeguarding investment in human capital - especially the cognitive capital of children in the early years - and ensuring child-centred reforms in the health, education, social protection and child protection systems.
This will not only help address the upheaval of compounding crises on girls and boys in South Asia, but also build strong systems which help safeguard progress against future shocks.
By firmly placing children at the heart of economic and social policy, countries in South Asia will reap long-term economic and social benefits.