Rural Poor in Bangladesh are Struggling with Their Next Meal
The rise in global commodity prices limits access to food for the most vulnerable people, including the rural poor in Bangladesh. Despite the 5,800-kilometer distance, Russia’s war in Ukraine is driving up consumer prices in Bangladesh and disproportionately affecting the rural poor because their incomes are not aligning with the increasing expenses. The ripple effect of the ongoing war is forcing the rural poor to drastically slash their consumption of food and non-food items.
The SHOUHARDO III program conducted its annual Beneficiary-Based Survey (BBS), sample size: 1,050 individuals, in 2022, highlighting the effects of the price hikes on its program beneficiaries. To better understand the impact of rising prices, the program completed another Recurrent Monitoring Survey (RMS; sample 450) in February 2023. Comparing the two survey findings reveals that households now face price hikes in many food commodities (previously, it was only two). In addition, households are forced to adopt negative coping mechanisms, such as eating fewer meals, reducing food quality and quantity and selling livestock/poultry to cope with the ongoing price hike.
SHOUHARDO III Plus Program participant Morium Begum, 72, lives with her only daughter Bono Begum, 52, in a small rural village in the Kurigram district in northern Bangladesh. As they have no one to take care of them, the poor and abandoned mother-daughter duo often struggles to survive. The recent price hike for essential goods such as rice and oil has increased their hardship.
They now struggle to manage “three square meals a day.” Bono works as an agricultural day laborer and only has an average daily income of Bangladeshi Taka (BDT) of 200-250 (USD $2.4). Morium gets 1,500 BDT (USD $13.98) quarterly as an old age allowance. With Morium’s allowance and Bono’s income from day labor, they managed to run their two-membered family before the significant rise of food commodity prices. Bono revealed in an interview in February 2023 that they used to spend BDT 100 (USD $0.93) to buy food, but now they cannot manage even with double the amount.
The BBS conducted in 2022 already indicated that 22.5 percent of households had fewer meals than usual as a negative coping strategy. One year after Russia’s war in Ukraine started, almost 60.4 percent of households consumed fewer meals, as revealed by the latest RMS of February 2023.
Morium recalls they were in a better situation during the pandemic as they received support from different nongovernmental organizations. During the second pandemic wave (March 202I), they received BDT 3,000 (USD $28) as cash assistance from the SHOUHARDO III program. They used this money to purchase food and other necessities. Morium shared that they were in a much better position after COVID- 19's third wave (May 202 I) due to cash support. They saved this money and used it later to cover the costs of essentials, but now they are in an unprecedented crisis due to the rapid price hikes. “Before the price hike, with my little earnings, I could buy fish someday, but now it’s harder for me to do so. I used to buy two liters of oil every month, but now I cannot manage two meals properly,” Bono notes.
Like Morium and Bono, many rural poor in Bangladesh now struggle to survive this price hike context. They are looking for support to recover from this economic shock.
The time to act is now!
Written by: Faisal Kabir, PhD
Reviewed and edited by: Zinat Ara Afroze and Marc Nosbach
Original publication designed by: Apel Pavel
“This document is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of CARE Bangladesh and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States.”