Staff Correspondent: The cost of food, fuel, and fertilizer in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities has escalated due to the food and energy crisis, which is attributed to the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a new study conducted by the international humanitarian organization ActionAid.
The cost of living in Bangladesh has gone up across multiple parameters, hitting the marginalized communities the hardest, the report suggests.
The report found that in Bangladesh, price of fertilizer has increased by 105%, sugar’s price by 60%, petrol’s price by 47%, and sanitary pads by 23%.
As a result, communities are facing multiple challenges, particularly women, girls and children have, who been hit hard, according to the report.
They are compromising on their education, nutrition, and on the health .
A survey of more than 1,000 community members and leaders in 14 countries across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean found that prices of fertilizer rose by more than 115% over the period monitored, while costs of petrol and sanitary pads increased by 80% or more, leading to soaring child marriage rates, deteriorating women’s health and worsening mental health.
This is despite the latest UN Food and Agriculture Organization Food Price Index showing an 11.7% decline in global prices since February 2022.
Alberta Guerra, Global Policy Analyst for ActionAid, said this pioneering research shows that since the onset of the war in Ukraine, the most vulnerable people around the world are bearing the brunt of skyrocketing food, fuel and fertilizer prices, with women and girls the hardest hit. “They are disproportionally affected by multiple crises that impact their food intake, education, their right to live free from child marriage, and their mental health and wellbeing.”
School dropout rates have increased for both girls and boys in 10 of the 14 countries surveyed, which includes Bangladesh.
The economic pressure created by price hikes has also resulted in increased rates of child marriage.
One of the respondents in Sunamganj district of Bangladesh laid it out clearly, “Education is far less important than securing food for survival. Boys have to work in Bangladesh in the stone quarry or in sand extraction for Tk 300/day in the Jadukata River. That’s why they skip school.”
The report highlights that Bangladesh is facing intersecting impacts of multiple crises, ranging from climate disasters, the Ukraine-Russia war, COVID-19, debt stress and currency depreciation.
Most notable among these factors mentioned above are climate disasters, COVID-19, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said, “The fuel price instability has had a far-reaching impact on all sectors, especially on food, which affects women and marginalized communities on a greater scale.
“Our national reporting (Bangladesh Bank) indicates we have an inflation of 9.5%. However, if we look in real terms, the marginalized community are now having to pay almost double the previous price for essential food items like rice and eggs. As such, there has been a serious drop in food consumption, affecting the nutritional balance ofcommunities. On the other hand, our energy sector is highly fuel-dependent and therefore, high fuel prices have made a significant impact on our foreign reserves and national expenditure.”
“ActionAid is advocating for a holistic approach and adequate funding that tackles all interconnected crises exacerbating the price crisis, including climate change, debt stress, and the profound repercussions of the Russian invasion in Ukraine”, she added.
Farah Kabir continues, “Social protection measures need to be urgently adjusted to match the changed reality and current needs of the community. One recommended measure is to incentivize families with children, encouraging them to prioritize and continue their education. Dependency on food imports needs to be addressed with higher investments made in agroecology farming. A just transition to renewable energy and agroecological farming practices is needed now more than ever, both to protect communities from shocks and also to offer resilience against the climate crisis. There is no time to waste.”
A total of 1,010 community members in 69 communities in 14 countries took part in the perception-based survey between 1st March and 23rd April.
The survey prioritized women participants, who constituted 63% of the respondents. Participants were asked about the current prices (on the day of the survey) of wheat products, cooking oil, petrol, gas for cooking, fertilizer, and sanitary pads, which were then compared with the prices collected by ActionAid before February 2022 (prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine).
Participants were also asked about the impact of these price rises on their lives and the lives of others in their communities and they were encouraged to choose at least one response from a series of options.
The 14 countries which took part in the survey were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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