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Survey: 81% households cut food expenses during pandemic

  • Published at 01:15 pm April 8th, 2021
poor woman old street
Representational photo Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The marginalized, vulnerable citizens are facing greater challenges during Covid pandemic, the survey found

Financial hardships resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic forced 80.6% households to cut down food expenses, a survey has found.

The Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh unveiled the findings of “Marginalized Communities in Bangladesh Dealing with Pandemic Fallouts Findings from a Household Survey” in a webinar on Thursday.

Some 47.2% households reduced the number of protein items and 37.7% cut down the number of items in meals, the survey found.

It found 78.8% households experienced financial hardship due to Covid-19.

Of them, 75% are in char, 71% in haor, 86% in coastal, 87.3% in slum, 67% in dalit, 67.7% in indigenous, 88.1% in PWD, 76% in Female HHH, 63.4% in migrant and 93.2% in MSME.

The study conducted by the platform is based on information collected through face-to-face survey of about 1,600 households across Bangladesh. It was conducted in February 2021 and covered 10 marginalized groups, including households from char, haor, and coastal areas, slum, Dalits, indigenous, persons with disabilities, migrant, micro, small and medium enterprises.

‘Debt trap awaits’

The marginalized and vulnerable citizens of the country are facing greater challenges to safeguard their lives and livelihood during the pandemic, the survey found.

The average decline in monthly savings of households is 64.6%. At least one member lost a job or had to shut down business in 70.3% households and 68.2% rejoined works later, the data showed.

Besides, 47.9% households took loans to tackle Covid-19 crisis from different sources. Of them, 56% of loans were received from NGOs, 24.2% from money lenders, and 3.4% from banks, according to the survey.

The platform’s convener and also distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Debapriya Bhattacharya said all marginalized groups are yet to fully recover from the fall in income and expenditure.

“The government distributed incentives and relief during the pandemic period last year [but] those were insufficient. There was even mismatching at distribution level,” he said.

He said a large number of households are likely to fall in debt trap and lose their savings.

Marginalized groups need support

CPD distinguished fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman said the new surge in Covid-19 and subsequent restrictions are likely to pose new challenges for the recovery of the marginalized groups.

“These groups will need support to meet their recurrent expenditures, loan repayment, and business restart investment. There’s a need for medium-term (at least three years) public policy support to the marginalized groups,” he added.

Mustafizur said experiences and lessons of the last one year should guide the design and implementation of future public support programs for the pandemic affected marginalized groups.

Utilizing policy instruments

The survey recommended the government to fully utilize the policy instruments at its disposal to support the distressed marginalized groups through cash transfer, food assistance, credit with easy terms, and targeted public works programs, among others.

The economic package needs to be coupled with health-related and social cohesion promoting interventions. The government needs the partnership of the NGOs/CBOs in tracing and delivering support inputs to the LNOBs and PNOBs. Putting together an integrated serviceable database is an urgent need.

It suggested explicit fiscal allocation (under social safety net program and beyond) in the upcoming national budget. It said fiscal incentives for corporate and private donations for a Social Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 (based on public-private partnership and with real-time digital reporting) may be considered.

The lead researcher of the survey Towfiqul Islam Khan and senior analyst Estiaque Bari, among others, took part in the webinar.

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