Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, IFPRI has been collecting data to assess the effect of the pandemic on Bangladeshi households, and to chart the recovery process. We have been interviewing households (over the phone) from all districts of Bangladesh by using two national samples of Bangladesh – one for rural households and another for urban households. The pre-pandemic in-person collected data of these households was collected in 2019, while after the pandemic started, we have been carrying out phone surveys in June 2019, January of 2021 and finally, now (September-October) in 2021. The data collection of the current survey is still going on – we have finished about 75% of the sample. But since the incoming data pipeline is automated (thanks to the prodigious coding skills of the IFPRI-Bangladesh research team!), we can start visualizing some of the data as it comes in.
Food insecurity is an extremely important measure of household welfare. We have been asking eight questions on household food insecurity which were designed to elicit information on food behaviors and actions taken by households when the resources needed to access food are constrained. For example, these questions asked whether the household worried that it would not have enough food to eat; skipped meals because the household lacked money or other resources to access food; been hungry but gone without eating; or gone without food for an entire day. We asked these questions using a 30-day recall period. Responses to these questions allowed us to construct the four categories based on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES): (a) food secure—answer yes to none of the eight questions; (b) mild food insecurity—answered yes to 1, 2, or 3 questions, indicating some element of food insecurity; (c) moderate food insecurity—answered yes to 4, 5, or 6 questions; and (d) severe food insecurity—answered yes to 7 or 8 questions.
Anyway, here is the exciting news – despite the observed increase in food insecurity in the early months of the pandemic (last year), the proportion of households reporting moderate or severe food insecurity has NOT increased in September 2021, despite the recent COVID-related surges and the national lockdown. It’s possible that things were worse a few months ago (during the strict lockdown period), but in that case, a rebound seems to be happening. The recovery of urban households seems to be a bit slower than rural households. These are early indications of resilience among Bangladeshi households.
Although the incidence of moderate and severe food insecurity has gone back to pre-pandemic levels, it is important to note that overall food insecurity of Bangladesh has increased compared to pre-pandemic times. This is because mild food insecurity has increased substantially compared to 2019. In other words, a large number of households which used to be food secure are now experiencing mild food insecurity. This shows up clearly when you tabulate the incidence of any food insecurity reported by households (i.e., mild, moderate or severe food insecurity).
For your kind information, this is based on incoming data from an incomplete sample; so, the estimates will likely change when the final sample is available. We are hoping to have the report ready by the end of October or in early November. But so far, the interim results are quite heartening to see.
If you are looking for our report based on the January 2021 (and earlier) data, please click here.