Along with the rest of the world, Bangladesh is preparing to undertake a range of measures to protect its population from the COVID-19 and its long-term socio-economic and humanitarian impacts. COVID-19 which was declared a pandemic by WHO on 30 January 2020 has already increased the pressure on an already strained humanitarian system, both globally and in Bangladesh.
In the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19, the UN Secretary General highlighted the need to protect the most vulnerable communities in society who will be severely affected during this time. This anticipatory needs analysis aims to provide timely evidence with which to plan an effective and coordinated humanitarian response focusing on the most vulnerable communities in Bangladesh that will be impacted as a result of the fallout from COVID-19 response. It will also supplement, but not overlap with the national COVID-19 preparedness and response, and Rohingya refugee COVID-19 response plans.
The COVID-19 response, including the general special leave declared by the government from 26 March to 25 April in Bangladesh is already impacting some of the most vulnerable groups in the country. It is expected that broader socio-economic impacts will continue to be felt for several months if not years across the world, and this will also have a significant localised impact on Bangladesh as well. These impacts will also disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups. The impact of the global COVID-19 response will be far reaching for Bangladesh, as it will impact both import of essential items and exports, especially related to the RMG sector on which the country relies heavily for income and employment.
Most vulnerable groups in Bangladesh primarily rely on daily income sources, and the loss of these income sources has required them to resort to negative coping mechanisms which will have long-term implications. Further specific needs and vulnerabilities around gender, disability, age, ethnicity (indigenous groups), returnee migrant workers, income levels and employment type continue to emerge and will increase with time. While it is difficult to predict all downstream impacts of the current situation, early planning and preparation for emerging and known challenges will be critical for the humanitarian sector to be prepared to mobilise and respond in a timely manner.
While the number of COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh have remained relatively low, they are in an upward trajectory (Johns Hopkins data). This will require further continuation of lockdown and travel restrictions in order to health response. As the lockdown continues, the socio-economic impact at community level will be more prominent. The upcoming cyclone and monsoon seasons (and resulting flooding and landslides) will further aggravate the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable groups in the coming months if there is any disaster as forecasted by BMD.
The Government of Bangladesh has mobilised significant resources to support communities impacted. However, it is likely that a coordinated humanitarian response over a 12-month period will be needed to supplement these efforts, especially to ensure that the most vulnerable groups receive targeted support. This analysis looks at identifying risks for vulnerable communities due to their geographical locations and/ or socio-economic conditions. It will provide the basis future planning, including where activities need to be focused, who is most in need and how the programs can be best delivered.