30pc people facing food scarcity

Finds World Bank survey on Covid impact on Bangladesh
Bangladesh food crisis

Around 30 percent people in Bangladesh are facing food scarcity though the country's economy made a recovery from the pandemic-induced shocks, says a World Bank survey.

The number of people, who went to sleep hungry, almost doubled to 13 percent in May this year from 7 percent in June last year, according to the survey.

WB Senior Economist Ayago Wambile presented the keynote paper on the survey at a seminar, organised by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in the capital yesterday.

Six percent of the people surveyed in May this year said they could not buy food. The figure was 5 percent in June last year. The number of those who didn't eat in 24 hours rose to 2 percent in May this year from 1 percent in June last year, the survey said.

However, there has been a significant decrease in the number of people, who ate smaller meals, over the last one year. It fell to 9 percent in May this year from 17 percent in June last year. 

Presenting the keynote, Ayago Wambile said, "Price increase is reported as a key challenge and impediment to food security."

He noted that food insecurity has heightened the vulnerability of the most food-insecure regions, including the countries in poorest areas.

The WB survey said food security for 70 percent of Bangladesh's population has not changed in one year since June 2021.

Sailesh Tiwari, another senior economist at the WB, said, "The country's economy has seen a V-shaped recovery in the last two years since the onset of Covid pandemic but the recovery was uneven as people from all levels failed to get the result of such recovery."

A V-shape recovery means a quick and sharp improvement in an economy after a sharp decline.

The survey titled "Tracking Impact of Covid-19 in Bangladesh: High Frequency Phone Survey" was conducted at 10 different times between June 2020 and May 2022. It was carried out at the national level as well as in urban and slum areas of Dhaka, Chattogram and Cox's Bazar. The sample size ranged from 1,300 to 7,700 people.

According to the study, during the time since the onset of the pandemic in June 2020, 31 percent people were unable to get Tk 25,000 in cash in case of emergency. The number fell to 4 percent in May this year.

BIDS Director General Binayak Sen said a large segment of the population faces difficulties in getting emergency cash in times of crisis.

"In developed countries, the state ensured cash aid for people …," Binayak told the seminar titled "Socio-Economic Impacts and Policy Responses to Covid-19 Pandemic in Bangladesh: Lessons for the Future".

Referring to the study findings, he said the country's economy suffered during the lockdowns. It gradually bounced back, but everyone didn't equally reap the benefits of the recovery.

In his presentation, Wambile said 55 percent people in slum areas were unable to pay rent in June 2020, while it came down significantly to 25 percent in May this year.

According to the study, 22 percent tenants in slum areas feared eviction by house owners in June 2020. The number dropped to 14 percent in May this year.

Wambile called upon the Bangladesh government to prepare for natural disasters, and economic and health-related shocks.

Mentioning that the country's vulnerability to economic shocks has risen, he said the government should expand and strengthen the social safety net for the poor.


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