The present third edition of the Social Impact of COVID-19 Household Survey is articulated across and covers eight key dimensions:
1) Impact on physical and mental health of people,
2) Access to Services,
3) Economic situation,
4) Household coping strategies to meet basic needs in crisis,
5) Education and transition to online learning,
6) Relationships and well-being,
7) Public perception of the response to the crisis, and
8) Internet usage, e-commerce and digital services.
The Survey is people-centred, and it is focused throughout on people’s wellbeing. As such, it detects the emerging vulnerabilities, strengths and coping mechanisms of people. It also captures the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic on social interactions and records changes in gender relations due to shifting power dynamics within households.
Data in this Survey show that the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still felt and are compounded by the recent rise in food and energy prices. Data strongly suggest that these combined and cumulative effects are sending strong shockwaves across Bosnia and Herzegovina, causing increased poverty and food deprivation and worsening inequalities. Furthermore, mental health of the population continues to be severely affected.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected both the economic and social situation across all age groups. Data show a continued and drastic impact of the crisis on those who are either already disadvantaged, at risk or more vulnerable, such as people living below the poverty line, families with children, single parents, Roma, internally displaced people, minority returnees and LGBTI community. The crisis also negatively and disproportionately affected people with disabilities and the elderly, who are, as a result, increasingly struggling in conducting their routine activities. The severity of the impact leads to feelings of inequality, including gender inequality, discrimination, and isolation. Data show that the pandemic also triggered major shifts in the way people think, socialize, communicate and live. Of particular concern are the effects of the crisis on basic social services such as health, including mental health, and access to quality education.
Economic disruptions seriously impact on the living conditions of households. Global food commodity prices, including BiH, hit an all-time high, leading to a worsened financial situation in 52 per cent of the households surveyed this time, compared to 43.6% in the previous research wave. The additional pressure on household incomes, in the context of a fragmented and inefficient social protection system, has worst and most tangible effects on low-income families, causing debt and reduction of food intake. This echoes the warnings of the Human Development Report on Social Inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2021) and of the BIH UN Position Paper on Social Protection (2022), both of which pointed out that existing significant structural gaps in access to, and coverage provided by, social protection systems will lead to further poverty and magnify existing inequalities. As we now clearly see, the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, like any other crisis, compound an already pre-existing fragility in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The challenge to be taken up, therefore, is clear, and will not disappear with the recess or end of the pandemic. There is a daunting task ahead of all of us to boost society’s resilience to further shocks. Ensuring effective social protection for all requires attention to the needs and realities of groups facing longstanding exclusion and suffering from structural inequalities. Comprehending the burden of mental health issues and strengthening the health system to address them is a high priority. Learning losses, incurred by girls and boys during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be difficult to recover, therefore, the education system requires an immediate and resilient overhauling to be better prepared for future shocks. The steady and continuous flow of data offered through this series of surveys is essential for shaping the discussion and informing action. Data collected in this report will be critically reflected on and used by our agencies – and the entire United Nations country team in Bosnia and Herzegovina – to implement the UN BiH Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021-2025.