COVID-19 Pandemic Lessons from Asia Pacific

Olof Blomqvist, Shaheen Chughtai, and Taskin Rahman - Save the Children

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous tragedy and disrupted the lives of hundreds of millions of children and their families in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Despite significant responses by governments and the heroic efforts of medical staff and other key workers, this global societal emergency has taught us several costly lessons.

Hospitals in many countries have been overwhelmed. Efforts to provide cash benefits to impoverished households or shift education and jobs online have helped many people – but such solutions remain inaccessible to millions of poor, socially marginalised families. Amid the stress and restrictions, violence and abuses against children, especially girls, has risen.

Meanwhile, continued armed conflict in some countries not only compounds the dangers facing vulnerable families and aid workers but creates conditions for the COVID-19 virus to persist. All of this raises the question: In an age of increasing crises caused by hazards such as disease and the growing climate emergency, should our societies have been better prepared?

But in this crisis there is also immense opportunity – to learn crucial lessons and rebuild our societies better than before. This report looks at six crucial pathways – underpinned by a new social contract fit for the 21st Century – that can not only help save lives and livelihoods but also lay the foundations for safer, healthier, more sustainable societies and a more promising future for their children.

This paper does not aim to provide a comprehensive analysis of all issues and solutions relevant to this subject. Instead, it highlights six fundamental pathways that governments and international donor and development agencies cannot ignore if the pandemic recovery is to leave Asia-Pacific better prepared and more resilient in the face of future shocks.

The six pathways include:

  1. Accelerate steps to provide adequate universal health coverage
  2. Expand the coverage of social safety nets
  3. Ensure effective support for children at risk of violence and abuse
  4. Bridge the digital divide to strengthen education and livelihoods
  5. Build back better on green and sustainable foundations
  6. Pause current conflicts and increase support for more inclusive conflict prevention and peacebuilding