Staff Correspondent: Food security has been greatly compromised in the low-income households of Bangladesh amid the Covid-19 pandemic so far, with 40% of households facing difficulties to have three meals a day and 70% of households consuming less quantity food than what they regularly consumed before, says a study.
The findings of the study, conducted by Brac University’s Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) mostly focusing on informal workers, readymade garment workers, returnee migrant workers and urban low-income groups, were shared on Tuesday during a discussion.
During the discussion, moderated CPJ Executive Director Manzoor Hasan, lead researchers Dr Sanaul Mostafa and Dr Shahidul Islam said that urban informal workers and returnee migrants suffered the most during the pandemic.
“Low-income people lost one-third of their income compared to the pre-pandemic period. Food security has been greatly compromised as 40% of households had difficulties to have three meals a day, 70% consumed less quantity of food, and 87% reduced their protein consumption,” they said quoting the study.
The study, titled “Covid-19 – Livelihood crisis, social cohesion challenges and mitigation options: An empirical study,” was conducted between November and December last year in the Dhaka region.
Low-income groups happy with govt response
The study also found that the share of work of women saw a drastic rise with the burden of work increasing from 18% at the end of 2019 to 53% during the pandemic.
The low-income households expressed satisfaction over the government’s response to the pandemic while having doubts about their ability to control this in future.
Researchers had pointed out that 70% of the pandemic-affected workers had expected the government to help them recover from their economic loss.
Dr Yameen Mazumder, the senior program specialist at Brac University’s James P Grant School of Public Health, noted that lockdown management is perhaps the most important question that arises in the context of the pandemic.
“The balancing act of enforcing lockdown measured against the needs of the individuals needs to be better understood,” he said.
Stressing on the fact that violence against women has increased alarmingly during the pandemic, ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir said: “Amidst the pandemic one noticed different dimensions of gender-based violence (GBV). Women who were not subjected to GBV earlier, have become the new victims, and child marriages have also spiked; these matters should have come under consideration.”
Guest speaker Sudipto Mukherjee, the resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the CPJ report has been published at a time when the national budget discussion is underway. Development agencies, state, private sector and academic institutions, amongst others, can work together to find appropriate solutions amidst the pandemic.
Monjoor Morshed, head of strategy and planning of Bidyanondo Foundation, stressed the role of community organisations to create a working model which will support the affected people directly.
“Organisations like Bidyanondo Foundation, have focused on what was needed by the people and raised funds to ensure that financial support was directly channelled to those who needed it most while minimizing overhead cost,” he added.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies Senior Research Fellow Dr Nazneen Ahmed also said: “While a majority of the recommendations made on the readymade garment sector were targeted towards the government, there could be a few simple recommendations made in terms of what could be asked of the civil society organisations or other private actors.’’
She stressed: “For the sake of social justice, the retrenched workers should be given access to underutilised donor funds.”
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, the chairperson of Brac Governing Body and chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre, said: “The study and the discussions today certainly point to the myriad of ways in which we can continue exploring to develop our understanding of the gaps in policy.”
He stressed that credible research is one of the ways to inform policymakers of the voice of vulnerable groups, including the “new poor,” which have emerged during the pandemic.
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