Food Coalition

Revised humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Bangladesh – Cox’s Bazar

Cox’s Bazar is a poor and vulnerable district in southeastern Bangladesh, with a total Bangladeshi population of 2.65 million people. It also hosts the largest refugee population in the world, with 855 000 Rohingya residing in 34 makeshift camps. Overcrowded and marked by poor hygienic and sanitary conditions, there is a high risk of the rapid spread of disease within the camps. On 23 March 2020, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was identified in Cox’s Bazar and the number of cases has since continued to increase rapidly.

The magnitude of the pandemic’s impact varies across different segments of society. Due to COVID-19 related movement restrictions, thousands of people in Cox’s Bazar are at risk of losing their jobs, livelihoods and subsequently their incomes. A rapid assessment conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2020 observed that COVID-19 has disrupted programmes in upstream (i.e. input supply and production), midstream (processing, marketing and logistics), and downstream (retail and consumption) segments of the agricultural value chain. The study also identified that necessary health-related movement restrictions to contain the spread of the virus ultimately limited or obstructed access to inputs, markets and services, labour and transport, farm machinery, financial capital, and digital services. Further, it has caused income shocks, and reduced food demand. Poorer households in particular are purchasing much less and risk being forced to adopt extreme coping strategies to sustain their food consumption.

The suspension and temporary reprogramming of livelihood activities due to the quarantine has negatively impacted the income of refugees. Humanitarian assistance to refugee households has continued at the scale prior to COVID-19; however, this assistance has been redesigned as households no longer have access to markets due to COVID-19 related movement restrictions. Previously provided with electronic value vouchers, refugees now receive electronic commodity vouchers through which they can acquire a fixed, pre-packaged basket of commodities based on household size. To compensate for the reduction in income-generating opportunities, chickpeas, potatoes, salt and yellow split peas have been added to the food basket to increase its nutritional value.

The pandemic has also particularly affected the livelihoods and food security of the most vulnerable host community members, particularly those working in agriculture and related informal sectors. Containment measures and other restrictions on business activities have led to the temporary rising of food prices and falling of incomes with an impact on food consumption and nutritional status. As their purchasing power decreases, households will be more likely to buy grains and other staple crops at a low cost in place of nutritious food like meat and fresh products, which are significantly more expensive. Household income levels have been impacted by livelihood disruptions with families generally losing between BDT 1 000 (USD 11.7) to BDT 3 000 (USD 35.22) a week. The economic impact of the current crisis is expected to be particularly damaging in the host communities due to decreasing livelihood opportunities.

Furthermore, Cox’s Bazar is traditionally a marine fisheries center. About 18 percent of the population in the district is engaged in the fisheries sector. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of customers and therefore sales in the fish market have dropped almost immediately. The price of fish has since continued to decrease as fisherfolk sell their fish for a very little profit margin or no profit at all. Marine fishing, which constitutes 95 percent of the fishing activities in the district, will follow a declining trend of supply and demand in local markets. Presently, the export of marine fish has completely halted due to the closing of seaports and associated activities. The COVID-19 outbreak has also drastically affected the livestock sub-sector in Cox’s Bazar. Broiler chickens are not selling well, resulting in a lower price of chicken and increased debt for poultry farm owners. Simultaneously, poultry hatcheries are facing challenges with selling their day-old chicks.

Priority Areas of work: Global Humanitarian Response Plan
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Level: Country
Country: Bangladesh
Budget: USD 10.45 million

Action Sheet:  Bangladesh_CB0213EN.pdf

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