Food aid is now failing to meet the needs of the extreme urban poor
It goes without saying that the toll Covid-19 has taken on the urban poor of the country is utterly devastating. Indeed, this economic reality is every bit as alarming as the health crisis we are experiencing.
A new study carried out by Sajida Foundation gives us sobering new numbers: At least 88% of the extreme urban poor who live in Dhaka or Chittagong are currently without a source of income. This is largely because the shutdown has made it hard for them to get work, although there could be other variables.
Compounding this situation is the fear of contracting Covid-19. Right now, the vast majority of the extreme poor are being forced to skip meals, a disheartening sign that much of the work done in the past few years to lift people out of poverty could be undone by this crisis.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that food aid is now failing to meet the needs of the extreme urban poor. Certainly, this is not acceptable. The government has rolled out packages valued in the thousands of crores for this very purpose -- to help those in economic need. If Sajida Foundation’s survey is to be trusted, that is to say, if indeed the overwhelming majority of the extreme poor are still going hungry, there is no way to avoid the question: Where is the aid going?
It helps none if the aid money and resources are only lining the pockets of influential quarters, or bailing out the rich. There is enough money in these packages to make sure people do not have to starve, and it is up to the government to ensure this help is going where it is actually needed.