The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has published the ninth instalment of its COVID-19 impact monitoring, a survey of 1,950 Nigerian households that it runs with backing from the World Bank. The latest survey was held in January '21 at a time when some restrictions, including those on large gatherings, were reintroduced to combat rising COVID-19 cases. The first series of the survey which was conducted in April/May '20 coincided with the initial lockdown. Although business activities have picked up since January, enforcement of strict COVID-19 safety compliant guidelines continue to take place. The ninth instalment also collected information on early childhood development (ECD), access to health services, and changes in the price of major food items consumed.
Due to the pandemic schools in Nigeria (same as in other countries) were closed for the majority of the 2019/20 school year. Given that most schools in the country do not have the infrastructure to conduct online education, most children did not have direct access to learning opportunities during the period.
While face-to-face learning and the use of printed teaching materials seem to be the main channel of learning, children in high or middle-income households had more access to learning through television, smartphones, or tablets. About 30% of households surveyed indicated that including more hours to the school day is an ideal strategy to assist with recovering the learning lost to school closures in 2020.
This instalment also focused on establishing trends for the prices of major food items consumed by households. Broadly, households reported that the prices of core food items posted significant y/y increases in January 2021. This trend is mirrored in the inflation reports released by the NBS. Food price inflation remains the major driver behind the steady acceleration in headline inflation. While rising food prices could benefit net producers, many households are experiencing a weakening of purchasing power.
Regarding access to health services, 85% of households in need of adult health services were able to gain access. This is encouraging given that at the height of the pandemic in March/April '20 accessing healthcare services was considerably difficult. Similarly, about 77% of households that needed vaccinations during the period of this survey were granted appointments to access them.
Based on the survey, the share of respondents who are working was 70%. Meanwhile, the share of respondents that were absent or stopped working was 23%. This is the second-highest since the launch of this survey series. The highest was recorded in the first round (43%) at the initial stages of the pandemic.
The potential reasons for the relatively high rate of economic inactivity reported by respondents are: data collection for this instalment occurred just after New Years' holidays, hence some respondents were on vacation. Furthermore, ill health or being quarantined was cited as a reason. The increase in the share of respondents who were ill or quarantined could be related to the surge in COVID-19 cases in December '20 .
The bureau plans to produce twelve reports in this series. The emergence and distribution of the vaccines have resulted in some optimism around steady economic activity. In the absence of a second wave of the pandemic, as well as a modest fiscal stimulus and targeted private investment, we expect growth at 2.0% in 2021 .