Low-income groups of the country are suffering from losses in earnings because of the enforcement of social distancing measures and a countrywide shutdown imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Since the disease broke out in Bangladesh, extreme poverty has risen by 60 percent while 14 percent people do not have any food at home, Brac said in a statement issued on Friday.
On the flipside, 36 percent people lack clear understanding of the measures that should be taken to prevent getting infected by the coronavirus.
Most people, the statement reads, are unaware that one should not directly go to any health facility with symptoms of the infection – fever, cough or breathing problems.
Brac came up with the findings through a perception survey conducted in all 64 districts.
A total of 2,675 respondents from low-income backgrounds participated in the survey carried out between March 31 to April 5 by the Advocacy for Social Change Programme of Brac.
Around 53 percent of the respondents suggested their neighbours with symptoms should go to an urban hospital or a public healthcare centre, while 29 percent said they would ask the patient to call the helpline.
Following the survey, several recommendations were made, including large-scale awareness campaigns on prevention, management and treatment, on television and social media.
The survey report also recommends immediate food assistance to millions of households suffering from acute food shortage across the country. Or else, the sufferers may violate prevention measures to manage food, which will raise risks of spreading Covid-19.
Impact on earning and food security
The impact of earning reduction has been catastrophic for the communities surveyed, Brac said.
Before the pandemic started, the per capita income of 24 percent respondents was below the national lower poverty line, and 35 percent were below the national upper poverty line.
Following the income loss, the same share has increased to 84 percent and 89 percent respectively – meaning 89 percent of the respondents now live in extreme poverty.
It also points out that extreme poverty has risen by 60 percent while poverty rose by 54 percent among respondents.
The average household income of the 2,675 respondents was Tk14,599 before Covid-19 epidemic.
Of them, 93 percent of the respondents reported a decline in income due to the outbreak.
During March 2020, their average income stood at Tk3,742 – an average 75 percent decline from their family incomes last month.
People in Chattogram, Rangpur and Sylhet divisions reported a higher decline in income at 84 percent, 81 percent and 80 percent, respectively.
Due to the public holiday and area specific lockdowns to enforce social distancing measures, 72 percent people reported job losses or reduced work opportunities.
About 8 percent of the respondents – who are still employed – have not received their payments, according to the survey.
Those engaged in non-agricultural wage labour experienced more loss of income, at 77 percent, than the wage labourers in the agriculture sector, at 65 percent.
About 51 percent of rickshaw pullers, 58 percent of factory workers, 66 percent hotel/ restaurant workers, and 62 percent day labourers in non-agricultural sectors reported that their incomes have reduced to zero in the current month.
Moreover, 14 percent of the respondents have no food reserves at home, while 29 percent have 1-3 days' food reserved.
Reaction on the public response
About 48 percent of the respondents think that government hospitals do not treat Covid-19 patients. Besides, 9 percent had no idea what to do if anyone contracts the disease.
Around 68 percent of the respondents supported the government measure, that is, declaration of the public holiday to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
There is a general agreement among the respondents that the government may increase the public holiday by on an average of 22 days, the survey found.
During the survey, 64 percent respondents believed that the holiday might increase by more than 14 days.
Majority of the respondents felt that the government is doing enough to tackle the epidemic, though 31 percent in rural areas and 40 percent in urban areas disagreed.
Only 4 percent of the respondents have received emergency relief support as of April 5, 2020.
Around 47 percent of the respondents preferred food aid, while 20 percent wanted cash support.
About 36 percent of the respondents do not have any idea about how they may cope with the loss of income while 23 percent of the total respondents hope that the government will support them in case the crisis lingers on.