Bangladesh’s COVID-19 Multi-sector Impact Report: Some Insights

Jun 3, 2020 by Prabodh Devkota, Deputy Country Director – Programs, Kaiser Rejve, Director, Humanitarian & Resilience- CARE Bangladesh; Emily Janoch—Director for Knowledge Management and Learning; CARE USA Comments (0)

In the midst of the global unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, it is high time for countries to conduct analyses to address immediate, mid-term and longer-term challenges, needs, response and recovery plans.

Bangladesh is one of the first countries to publish such a comprehensive report; a collective effort of the Needs Assessment Working Groups (NAWG) with more than 65 contributing organizations—from UN agencies to local humanitarian networks. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief chairs this group, with CARE as co-chair, and has endorsed the report. The full report is available here.  The Impact Assessment Report has also significantly contributed to CARE’s Rapid Gender Assessment process in Bangladesh, and specifically in Cox’s Bazaar.

The Government of Bangladesh has played a critical leadership role to support communities across the country faced with the pandemic. The evolving nature of the epidemic requires humanitarian actors to support government efforts. One key area for support is prioritizing the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable communities, as well as women and girls. Response efforts must support these people to lead dignified life during and beyond the crisis.

What did we find?

This multi-sector report looks across impacts in health, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), Gender Based Violence (GBV), Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), food security and nutrition, education, child protection, shelter, early recovery, and logistics. The sectoral analysis offers an insight for coordination across sectors towards harmonizing the response efforts to avoid overlapping and duplication. The findings aim to serve as an important part of the response and collaborative architecture building on the foundations of the Needs Assessment Working Group.  

Some key findings of the report:

  •  Food security is one of the biggest challenges: 75% of people don’t have access to food, and 90% don’t have enough money to buy food. 70% of women are worried they can’t provide diverse diets for their children.
  • Women are losing access to critical health services: 45% of people reported that health facilities are inaccessible. 43% of healthcare workers heard of mothers dying in their area within the last week. 25% of healthcare workers noted women are not coming into healthcare facilities.
  • Markets are struggling: 60% of people are facing challenges now that markets are either closed or limited in operation. There has been a 25% spike in price of potatoes and a 13% spike in price of rice.
  • Women and children are facings risks of violence: 33% of people do not know where to go to get help in cases of abuse. 50% of people identified that girls’ safety and security is a problem during quarantine, and 42% say that parents are more likely to beat their children in the current situation. 
  • Education is at risk: 60% of people have not heard from schools about how learning will continue, and 38% of parents say there is no continuing education.

The report also highlights key recommendations for immediate, midterm and longer-term response. In addition to immediate needs, the report states the need for alternative employment creation, enterprise recovery, market monitoring and market functionality, support the supply chain for food, trade and agricultural inputs, GBV risk mitigation, gender focused interventions, localized leadership and integrated planning. The report also emphasizes that “any response plan will need to ensure adequate resources are planned for the next 12 months – including for the flood and cyclone responses that will emerge.”

What did we learn about collaborative needs assessment?

This report is the collective effort of dozens of organizations. This is the expression of collective effort from the humanitarian communities in Bangladesh. As the coordinating agency, CARE Bangladesh has had some unique learning experiences. Some of these key learnings are:

  • It’s possible to move fast. The whole process took 8 days from the start of developing the questionnaire. We had collected data from more than 600 communities within 3 days of designing the questionnaire, even in the midst of crisis.
  • We can combine communication with data collection. While collecting data, we integrated risk messaging about COVID-19. Not only did this provide an additional way to educate communities, it also helped get more satisfying response. Communities felt they were getting something out of the interaction, and so were more engaged.
  •  Coordinating between many agencies can lead to stronger results. Jafar Iqbal, CARE’s Emergency Response Program Manager says, “It was no easy task to liaise with more than 65 different organizations such as UN clusters, NGOs, private sector actors, and different citizen’s platform. We were able to leverage their presence in different parts of the country to quickly collect data. The way humanitarian community came together in the middle of such a crisis has been an amazing achievement.”
  •  Groups need to share both data collection and analysis. Coordination was not just on the data collection side, but also for data analysis. 65 different agencies needed to have a shared understanding of the data in order to use the information to plan a better response.
  •  It’s important to keep gender analysis at the center of the entire process. In Bangladesh and globally, COVID has disproportionately impacted women and girls, gender analysis was an integral part of every step of the process, from design and methodology through data collection and analysis. There were experts to ensure a gender lens across different sectors to highlight specific issues that women and girls are likely to face. This has helped in understanding the issues and in developing response plan towards addressing specific needs and priorities for women and girls.   

How are we using the findings?

Immediately after the report was released, the team did a follow-up survey to see who was using the data. 95% of agencies--including donors and UN agencies—used the report. The primary uses of the report so far have been to:

  •  Raising awareness about the situation,
  •  Developing the humanitarian response Plan (HRP),
  • Designing early recovery projects,
  •  Raising funds for emergency response.

The Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCTT) used the report findings to draft the national response and the 2020 contingency plan for climate related disaster in the COVID19 pandemic context.


Looking to the future

The Government of Bangladesh is already leading the COVID-19 response. They are already implementing the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plan. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief is planning to reach 10 million population with rice and cash support to most vulnerable people impacted by COVID-19.

Other humanitarian actors must complement this response from the government. The scope of the crisis is too big for any one agency to handle alone. This coordinated effort must move beyond the immediate response and plan for future efforts. The report highlights mid and longer-term impacts which may trap people in poverty and reverse the development gains Bangladesh has made.

Challenges in food security, nutrition, livelihood, impact on small holder farmers, job loss, migration, access to health services are already posing mid and longer-term challenges. The upcoming cyclone and monsoon seasons will likely cause flooding and landslides that drive people even farther into disaster. Women and girls are likely to bear the hardest burden. To address these challenges, various efforts are addressing the needs and priorities for women and girls with GBV programs, gender-sensitive risk communication; and sensitization to share the burden of care work at household levels.

To address these challenges the humanitarian community in Bangladesh is tracking progress and helping coordinate a streamlined response. This will increase efficiency and make the biggest possible impact for people in need.