Extreme poverty in Bangladesh has risen by 60 percentage points while 14 percent of the low income people do not have any food at home due to the nationwide lockdown over coronavirus, according to a survey.
They are suffering “great losses in their earnings” for the enforcement of social distancing measures, non-government organisation BRAC said in a statement on the findings of the survey on Friday.It also called for focused awareness campaign among the low income people on symptoms, management and treatment of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
BRAC said the impact of the reduction in earning is “catastrophic” for the communities surveyed.
Before the pandemic started, the per capita income of 24 percent of the respondents was below the national lower poverty line, and 35 percent were below the national upper poverty line.
The rates rose to 84 percent and 89 percent respectively following the loss of income due to the shutdown, according to the survey.
It means the incidence of extreme poverty has risen by 60 percentage points and poverty by 54 percentage points among the respondents.The average household income of the 2,675 respondents was Tk 14,599 before the COVID19 epidemic.
As much as 93 of the respondents reported a decline in income due to the outbreak.
In March, their average income stood at Tk 3,742, an average 75 percent decline from their family income of last month.
Among the respondents of the survey, 72 percent reported jobloss or reduced work opportunities.
And 8 percent of the respondents, who are still employed, have not received their payment, BRAC said.
Those engaged in non-agricultural wage labour experienced more loss of income (77 percent) than the wage labourers in the agriculture sector (65 percent).
Among the respondents, 14 percent have no food reserved at home, while 29 percent have one to three days of food reserved.
BRAC found 36 percent of people do not have any clear idea about measures to be taken to prevent the disease.
Most people even do not have any idea about the message that one should not directly go to any health facility with symptoms of the infection, such as fever, cough, breathing problem.
As much as 53 of the respondents said they would suggest neighbours with these symptoms to go to an urban hospital or public healthcare centre.
Only 29 percent said they would ask the patient to call on helpline while 40 percent mentioned isolation or quarantine as a possible treatment option.
Men are more informed (60 percent) about whom to contact or what to do if one gets infected by coronavirus compared to women (38 percent).
BRAC conducted the countrywide perception survey on a total of 2,675 respondents from low-income background in all 64 districts from Mar 31 to Apr 5.
Its Advocacy for Social Change programme conducted the survey with assistance from other programmes - Microfinance, Urban Development Programme and Partnership Strengthening Unit.
The NGO made a number of recommendations based on the findings.
People who have returned to villages from urban centres are not enrolled in any social safety net programmes and so needs proper delivery mechanisms to get food aid immediately.
Special attention is needed to keep the agricultural value chain from stalling. Plummeting prices of agricultural products and costly transportation cost can increase rural poverty and create social unrest.
Focused large-scale awareness campaigns on prevention, management and treatment should run on TV and social media.
“Food assistance must be immediately reached to the millions of households across the country suffering from acute food shortage,” BRAC said.
“Otherwise they will be compelled to leave home to find their living in violation of the social distancing measures, increasing the risk of spreading coronavirus infection,” it added.