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81pc households cut down food expenses during pandemic: Study

Published : Friday, 9 April, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 86

Financial hardships resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic forced 80.6 per cent households to cut down food expenses, a survey has found.
The Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh unveiled the findings of 'Marginalised Communities in Bangladesh Dealing with Pandemic Fallouts Findings from a Household Survey' in a webinar on Thursday.
Some 47.2pc households reduced the number of protein items and 37.7pc cut down the number of items in meals, the survey found.
It found 78.8pc households experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Of them, 75pc are in char, 71pc in haor, 86pc in coastal, 87.3pc inslum, 67pc in dalit, 67.7pc in indigenous, 88.1pc in PWD, 76pc in Female HHH, 63.4pc in migrant and 93.2pc 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 marginalised groups, including households from char, haor and coastal areas, slum, dalit, indigenous, persons with disabilities, migrant, micro, small and medium enterprises.
'Debt trap awaits'
The marginalised and vulnerable citizens of the country are facing greater challenges to safeguard their lives and livelihood during the pandemic, the survey found.
Average decline in monthly savings of households is 64.6pc. At least one member lost job or had to shut down business in 70.3pc households and 68.2pc rejoined works later, the data showed.
Besides, 47.9pc households took loans to tackle Covid-19 crisis from different sources. Of them, 56pc loans were received from NGOs, 24.2pc from money lenders and 3.4pc from banks, according to the survey.
The platform's convener and also distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Debapriya Bhattacharya said all marginalised 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.
Magrinalised 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 recovery of the marginalised 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 marginalised groups," he added.
Mustafizur said experiences and lessons of last one year should guide the design and implementation of future public support programmes for the pandemic affected marginalised groups.
Utilising policy instruments
The survey recommended the government to fully utilise the policy instruments at its disposal to support the distressed marginalised groups through cash transfer, food assistance, credit with easy terms, and targeted public works programme, among others.
Economic package needs to be coupled with health-related and social cohesion promoting interventions. The government needs 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 programmes 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.    -UNB

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