Impact of COVID-19 on Food Insecurity and Coping Mechanisms of Marginalized People in Bangladesh: An Experience of BRAC

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Insecurity and Coping Mechanisms of Marginalized People in Bangladesh: An Experience of BRAC

Emadul Islam (BRAC, Bangladesh), Ishtiaque Jahan Shoef (BRAC, Bangladesh) and Mehadi Hasan (BRAC, Bangladesh)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7480-5.ch016
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This chapter is part of an extensive panel survey conducted among the BRAC COVID-19 response HHs between April 2020 to September 2020. This chapter aims to describe the food insecurity status of BRAC-supported HHs and their coping strategies to combat the impact of COVID-19. A total of 6,086 HHs were interviewed in the 1st round (April 2020-June 2020), whilst these HHs were interviewed in the 2nd round (July 2020 to September 2020). Findings reveal that COVID-19 has created an unprecedented impact on HH food insecurity. The study prepared a food index score and found that 33% of HHs are extremely food insecure, whilst 19% are highly insecure. In terms of coping strategies to the current food needs of the HHs, dependency on the personal mechanism and institutional mechanisms were identified. The study argues that the COVID-19 crisis forces HHs into long-term loan burden, which may lead to another hurdle, causing delayed HHs economic recovery. Long-term GO and NGO sustainable economic recovery intervention could help marginalized people to build back better from COVID-19.
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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published a report on 3 December, 2020, claimed that the impact of COVID-19 could push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. As a result, to achieve SDGs goals 1 and 2, no poverty and zero hunger would be more ambitious by 2030. However, rising food insecurity during COVID-19 caused inequalities in the food system (Carey, Murphy, & Alexandra, 2020). The rising trend of food insecurity caused by COVID-19 is visible in both rich nations of the Global North and poor nations of the Global South. Still, it is particularly severe in countries already experiencing food insecurity (Fitzpatrick, Harris & Drawve, 2020).

The massive economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 has resulted in lost employment, income, and livelihoods abruptly. As a result, people’s buying capacity for food has collapsed enormously (Clapp & Moseley, 2020). It is predicted by various international bodies like the United Nations and World Bank that due to COVID-19, the world economy could shrink more than 3% in the year 2020, and if the crisis continues for long, it will create substantial social and economic losses (United Nations, 2020; World Bank, 2021). Many countries have been hard hit by the economic downturn, particularly developing countries, which were already in a recession by late 2019 (UNCTAD 2020).

Maintaining the social distancing norm has been identified as a key preventive and protective measure to combat COVID-19 spread, while lockdown of suspected areas and shut down of economic activities are being practiced globally.The consequences of such restrictions, such as the national and global economy being locked down and shut down, are unprecedented and lead to a variety of vulnerabilities such as extreme poverty and food insecurity.No doubt, in any pandemic or climatic events, poor people and developing countries are hardest hit due to a lack of adaptive capacity and resilience. For example, in the Asia Pacific region, around 400 million people still live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day and more than 1 billion live on less than $3.20 a day. That is a tremendous number of people highly vulnerable to food scarcity, job losses, famine due to their limited capacity to protect against this invisible virus COVID-19.

In Bangladesh, the country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) reported the first three known cases on 7 March 2020. Since then, 521,382 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 7,756 deaths had been reported as of 9 January 2021. In practice, most Western countries’ social distancing norms have relied upon to reduce transmission are proving to be culturally and practically impossible to implement. In this context, the Bangladesh government declared a countrywide lockdown from 26 March 2020. The economic shutdown sparked by the government’s declared lockdown immediately impacted the livelihood of millions in the country, worsening inequality, hitting hard the poor and informal workers. This unprecedented turn of events has crippled the livelihood opportunities of the poor and marginalized communities who have limited capacity to withstand and bounce back from this economic downturn. Thus, the economic crisis soon converted to a humanitarian crisis with a public health dimension. As an immediate measure, a ramped-up response plan is required to curb the health emergency, protect people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and set the stage for fast economic recovery.

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