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New Surveys Track The Economic And Social Impact Of COVID-19 On Families In Papua New Guinea And Solomon Islands

Household surveys provide critical baseline for decision-makers working to combat the economic and social challenges amplified by the Coronavirus pandemic

New surveys of families in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands by the World Bank have found that more than 85% of households are using a range of coping strategies to manage the current economic crisis on their daily lives, with more than half of respondents in PNG reporting that they had reduced the number of children at school, and more than half of Solomon Islands respondents saying that they had reduced the amount of food they are eating.

The new surveys were undertaken in June and July this year across all provinces in both countries, before the significant increase in cases in PNG in August and before the first cases were detected in Solomon Islands by the end of October.

The surveys – the first of five planned over the coming 12 months – provide an important baseline for decision-makers and partners in both countries to track the house-hold level impacts that have been created, or amplified, by COVID-19.

The surveys found that more than 85% of households in both countries had reported using at least one economic coping strategy since March. Of these strategies, in PNG:

  • 52% of those surveyed reporting reducing the number of children attending school;
  • 36% reported selling crops/harvest ahead of the planned time for sale; and
  • 28% reported reducing their food consumption.

In neighbouring Solomon Islands:

  • 57% reported reducing their food consumption;
  • 48% had spent money from their savings; and
  • 27% had increased their household debt by delaying loan repayments or making purchases on credit.

Other findings from the surveys include:

  • Close to 80% of Papua New Guineans and 78% of Solomon Islanders surveyed were worried about their household finances.
  • In PNG, nearly half (47%) of households working in the agriculture sector are expecting lower or no income from their crops this year;
  • In Solomon Islands, the workforce decreased by 10% since January, with women more likely to have stopped working and less likely to start working than men. Of those still working in June, one-third were working for less than what they earned in January, or were not being paid at all.

“While both countries’ confirmed case numbers are relatively low by global standards, these surveys provide striking evidence that the household-level impacts of the pandemic are significant,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

“It is alarming that so many Papua New Guinean and Solomon Islands families are experiencing financial distress resulting from the pandemic, and that they are being forced to increase their household debt. These decisions will have lasting negative consequences for far too many families,” said Mr Kerf.

“These surveys – the first of five over the next 12 months – will provide a valuable baseline for tracking the realities of the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Papua New Guinean and Solomon Islander families beyond the direct health impacts. This will give the governments of PNG and Solomon Islands, as well as development partners, a critical body of knowledge to support the countries’ recovery from this crisis.”

The full survey reports are available for Solomon Islands here and for Papua New Guinea here.

In April, the World Bank committed US$20 million to support PNG’s fight against COVID-19, the project has supported the Government of PNG to deliver personal protective equipment to all 22 provinces, scaled up lab-capacity for COVID-19 testing, and supported infection prevention training for health workers and essential frontline workers across all 22 provinces. This has been achieved alongside partners including the Australian Government (DFAT), UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In May, the World Bank committed US$15 million to build sustainable growth in Solomon Islands, which supported the government in meeting some of the costs of COVID-19 preparedness. This assistance, which was planned before the COVID-19 pandemic, was increased, on request of the government, from US$9.9 million to US$15 million to better support the country to meet the challenges of COVID-19’s impact on economic growth and government revenue.

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 83 projects totalling US$1.75 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.

The World Bank Group’s COVID-19 Response

The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. We are supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. We will be deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over 15 months to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans.

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