Ahead of next week's SDG summit in New York, experts from across Bangladesh's leading research institutions met Tuesday with government officials to discuss new research findings on the country's Covid-19 experience and its future implications.
The research projects have been put together in the Covid-19 Learning, Evidence, and Research Program in Bangladesh (CLEAR).
The research projects look at a whole range of long-lasting impacts from the pandemic, what worked well and what needs improving. The findings show continuing evidence of a new category of poor who are struggling to access government assistance, undermining the pandemic recovery. The recovery has slowed down because people are being trapped in debt and the depletion of their social and family networks as well as worrying long-term consequences for the next generation.
Researchers with the CLEAR programme are also uncovering what worked well for Bangladesh, for example around the rolling out of accountability mechanisms and digital health services which they hope can feed into the Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041.
CLEAR is led by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in collaboration with the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).
Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD, said, "We organised this discussion for sharing our research findings and insights related to the socio-political impact of Covid-19 in Bangladesh with senior policymakers. It is our hope that the knowledge and recommendations generated here will inform evidence-based policymaking and interventions aimed at addressing the challenges propped up by the pandemic."
Dr Sohela Nazneen, research fellow at IDS and programme lead for CLEAR, summarised the findings of the CLEAR-backed research programmes and shed light on the multifaceted consequences of Covid-19 in Bangladesh.
Dr Nazneen said, "The impact of Covid is not necessarily over, and we are facing multiple crises like price hikes and job losses, which are impacting people. The multiple crises are resulting in depletion and deepening of precarity. Specific groups like the new urban poor and slum children require targeted attention with respect to health services, social protection, and access to education."
The CLEAR research projects evolved around certain thematic areas like poverty and vulnerability, service delivery, accountability and governance, rights of marginalised population and disadvantaged groups; and innovation-technology.
One of the projects found that the socioeconomic situation has become increasingly precarious with high levels of transitory poverty and reduced work opportunities. Overall, though the poverty level bounced back after Covid, it left long-term impacts on the residents in low-income urban households.
Another study found that the "new poor" households are generally struggling to recover from the multiple crises arising from the pandemic including the cost of living. Many households had to cut expenditure in nutrition, health, and education. Multiple shocks from the crises led to support networks being depleted, leaving households struggling to get support.
The need for the right kind of governance for maximum effectiveness of digitalisation initiatives was also identified to be a crucial policy concern as stated in national strategy documents including the Perspective Plan and the 8th Five Year Plan.
Government officials Animesh Biswas from Directorate General of Health Services, Khan M Nurul Amin, NDC from Ministry of Planning, Rokunul Haque from Department of Social Services, and Razia Sultana Iti from Dhaka City Corporation were present at the roundtable discussion.
Researchers from CLEAR projects like Maheen Sultan, Miguel Loureiro, Md Mostafizur Rahman from CAMPE, Farzana Misha from BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, Md Tuhin Ahmed from Sanem, and Marium Ul-Mutahara from Manusher Jonno Foundation were also present at the event.