Rapid Research Response to COVID-19 (RRR)

Introduction

Starting with the new year, COVID-19 has already managed to create a crisis of an epic scale. The WHO declared the situation as a pandemic on 11 March and the UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that it is a crisis unlike any in the UN’s 75-year history. The virus has not been proven to be airborne, but it spreads fast enough, through respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces, threatening to infect millions across the world within a short span of time, and with high mortality rates, threatening to kill tens of thousands in the process.

While frequent and proper handwashing is the number one recommendation to prevent infection, social distancing through measures such as self-isolation and, in extreme cases, complete lockdown of cities and communities appear to contain the spread, as evident from the examples of China, South Korea, and Singapore. But many countries and communities are failing to enforce the desired level of social distancing for a variety of economic and socio-cultural reasons, undermining government efforts to contain the virus.

On the other hand, social distancing may be the measure that most effectively curbs the vicious surge of the virus; yet the same measure is creating a global economic affliction that may last long after the virus subsides. Social distancing means deep paring down of economic activities. Educational institutes are closed, those who can are working from home, most public events area getting cancelled, people are avoiding public places—restaurants, movie theatres, and markets—and cancelling travel plans. In case of lockdown, all but essential economic activities are virtually stalled.

Stock markets worldwide are already sinking, despite government efforts. Experts are predicting a recession if the trend continues, and if liberal, ubiquitous stimulus packages are not put in place. The global economy is one big hyper-connected complex system. It is uncertain how deep the economic impact of the COVID-19 will be and how long it will last.

The Socioeconomic Impact of COVID-19 in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is nowhere near the epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis, yet the number of detected cases is multiplying in recent days. Experience of other countries tells us that without strict measures, the situation may quickly get out of hand. High density of population, large number of migrant workers returning from COVID-19-affected countries, and the unprepared health system make Bangladesh a high-risk country for COVID-19 outbreak. Combined with confusion and lack of information, this has created widespread panic in the country. The country is already experiencing the adverse effect of COVID-19, both in terms of public health and economy.

Immediate Impact

Social distancing—self-isolation and lockdown—causes an immediate and drastic reduction of domestic economic activities. In Bangladesh, citizens have started to practice social distancing since the second half of March, and already its adverse economic impact is evident. And the low-income people are the quickest and hardest hit, especially those living in urban centres and working in the informal sector. Suddenly, the number of customers is plummeting for street vendors and service providers—cobblers, rickshaw drivers, auto drivers, and drivers of ride-sharing services, to name a few. The future is hanging by a thread for the workers in the service sector such as restaurants and beauty parlours. The jobs of home service providers such as maids and drivers are also at risk. Most of these people depend on their daily income and the rest get by with monthly wages, with little to no fallback. When faced with income loss, these people desperately need support just for their sustenance.

The rural economy is already struggling with the falling prices of agricultural commodities and simultaneous hikes in the cost of commercial transportation; we know that marginal and poor farmers are usually the hardest hit in these situations. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have already returned, out of fear of the virus or upon losing their jobs, majority of whom belong to low and lower-middle-income rural households. Many are also heavily indebted because they borrowed large sums for migration. Thus, returning migrants and their families are also likely to face immediate economic hardship.

Poor and vulnerable people are also the ones disproportionately exposed to the virus for a variety of reasons. They are at the frontline of providing the essential services or they have to go out to feed their families. They often live in in conditions where social distancing is not feasible, in overcrowded slums or small houses shared with the extended family. Many of them have poor sanitation facilities. They are also likely to be less aware, compared to their educated, wealthier counterpart, about how to mitigate the risk of infection.

Short- and medium-term impact

Bangladesh is not immune to global economic disruption, in fact, our overdependence on overseas migration and the Ready-made Garments industry makes us highly vulnerable. As mentioned earlier, many migrants have already returned after the outbreak. But if the global economy slows down, many more will become jobless and return home; the aspirant migrants will find it difficult to migrate and find jobs abroad. Overseas remittance is a crucial economic lifeline in our rural economy and for many poor and lower-middle-income rural households. Reduction of remittance will not reduce our foreign exchange reserve, but also have an adverse impact on these households.

On the other hand, the global economic crisis means loss of business for the RMG sector in Bangladesh. If the situation persists, many RMG workers are likely to experience a cut in their overtime income and even job loss. Many RMG owners have reported that their orders are already drying up. The government has a high stake in the RMG sector, so the RMG owners may get government support to stay afloat. But will the affected workers be able to negotiate their support from the owners or the government? How will they cope with the uncertainty?

In general, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that are export-oriented or import raw materials from the global market will also be affected by the slowing world economy and disruption in the supply chain.

There will be a host of other short to medium term adverse socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 across the country. The micro and small businesses that are shut down during the lockdown, may not be able to recover because of cash crisis. Poor people may become heavily indebted during the lockdown, may fall into a deeper poverty trap. The children, particularly those belonging to poor, less educated families, may never make up the lost time in school; this may flatten the curve of their lifetime earning potential.

BIGD’s Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

BIGD exists to create insights and evidence for more effective policy and practice for better development and governance outcomes, especially for the poor and vulnerable, through on-the-ground, rigorous research and capacity building; and it is evident that, because of COVID-19, we have good reasons to worry about the very livelihoods of these people today and in the days to come.

We believe, during this unforeseen national crisis, our research can provide useful and credible insights to policymakers as well as practitioners such as BRAC on how to control the pandemic effectively while minimizing its socioeconomic impact. And the research needs to happen fast because the situation is a fast-evolving and escalating crisis. That is why BIGD has embarked on the Rapid Research Response (RRR) to COVID-19 with a special focus on the lives and livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable people.   

Our Value Proposition

We believe that everyone should come together and apply their unique strengths and resources to address this national crisis. Designing and implementing rigorous and policy-relevant social and economic research is the primary expertise of BIGD, so we have decided to deploy our full-capacity in the RRR initiative. At BIGD, we have a pool of experienced and young researchers with a variety of capacities in qualitative and quantitative research, all of them are investing their time and energy in this initiative.

During social distancing, we do not have the option for conducting face-to-face interviews. But we have access to a large contact database from the numerous recent surveys we have done with different demographic and occupational groups in both urban and rural areas throughout Bangladesh. We are using this database to conduct phone surveys.

BIGD runs large-scale quantitative as well as qualitative research projects in the field on a regular basis, and often within a short turnaround time. We have an experienced six-member data and field management team and a large network of enumerators and qualitative field researchers.

COVID-19 related research must be rapid, otherwise, it will lose relevance. It also needs to be frequent as the situations are quickly evolving. Combined with our access to contact databases and our field implementation capabilities, we are confident to start and complete fieldwork with a variety of target groups within the quickest possible time.

Finally, and most importantly, BIGD has an extensive network of policymakers, practitioners and researchers, which we are using to maximize the impact of our RRR initiative. We are extensively collaborating with research institutes and prominent researchers within and outside the country to expand and complement our capacities to conduct rapid research on a wide range of areas. We are using our practitioners’ network to get access to different types of target groups. Most importantly, we are working with crucial policymakers such as the Ministry of Planning and large implementers such as BRAC to address their COVID-19 related research needs.

The epistemic and policy-practice community need to come together at this period of unprecedented crisis and the unknown aftermath. We believe that we can have a meaningful impact through collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas between like-minded researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. Please let us know if you would like to join hands with us in this journey.

The State of Learning in Bangladesh

Status: Ongoing

Researcher(s): Imran Matin, PhD, Khandker Wahedur Rahman, PhD, Marjan Hossain, Hossain Zillur Rahman

Topic(s): COVID-19, Social Transformation, Education

Livelihood Transitions and Coping with Shocks: Women in the Domestic Service Sector Coping with COVID-19

Status: Completed

Researcher(s): Lopita Huq, Taslima Aktar, Saklain Al Mamun

Topic(s): Gender Justice, COVID-19

Livelihood Transitions and Coping with Shocks: Women in the RMG Sector Coping with COVID-19

Status: Completed

Researcher(s): Lopita Huq, Taslima Aktar, Saklain Al Mamun

Topic(s): COVID-19, Gender Justice

A Contextual Analysis of the Governance and Political Economy of Labour Organizations in the RMG Sector of Bangladesh

Status: Ongoing

Researcher(s): Mirza M. Hassan, PhD, Syeda Salina Aziz, Rafsanul Hoque

Topic(s): COVID-19, Governance and Politics

Adolescent Girls’ Vulnerabilities and Transitions in the Context of COVID-19

Status: Ongoing

Researcher(s): Maheen Sultan, Lopita Huq, Khandker Wahedur Rahman, PhD, Md. Raied Arman, Iffat Jahan Antara, Maliha Noshin Khan

Topic(s): Gender Justice, COVID-19

COVID-19 Infections in the Slums: An Anthropological Exploration

Status: Completed

Researcher(s): Shahaduz Zaman, PhD, Faruq Hossain, Imran Matin, PhD

Topic(s): COVID-19

Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 and Policy Implications for Bangladesh

Researcher(s): Sultan Hafeez Rahman, PhD, Md. Abdur Razzaque

Topic(s): COVID-19, Macroeconomics

Access to Justice During COVID-19 for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Status: Completed

Researcher(s): Maheen Sultan, Pragyna Mahpara

Topic(s): COVID-19, Gender Justice

Challenges and Prospects of Youth Employment in the Post-COVID Scenario

Status: Completed

Researcher(s): Md. Shakil Ahmed, Nusrat Jahan

Topic(s): Skills and Jobs, COVID-19

Resilience of the Ultra-Poor People in the Face of COVID-19

Status: Ongoing

Researcher(s): Narayan C. Das, PhD, Atiya Rahman (On study leave)

Topic(s): BRAC Programs, Economic Development, Ultra-Poor Graduation

Book/Book Chapter

ন্যায়বিচারের সন্ধানেঃ পারিবারিক সহিংসতার শিকার নারীদের অব্যক্ত উপাখ্যান

Publisher: BIGD, GIZ Bangladesh

Date: 2022

Author(s): Sultan, Maheen; Akter, Marufa; Mahpara, Pragyna; Pabony, Nuha Annoor; Tasnin, Fariha; Hossain, Sara; Titir, Abdullah; Sidddiki, Esrat Jahan; Antor, Sadiul Islam

Topic(s): COVID-19, Gender Justice

Journal Article

Bangladesh and COVID-19: Reversals and Resilience

Publisher: IDS Bulletin

Date: 2022

Author(s): Rahman, Atiya; Jahan, Nusrat; Matin, Imran; Rahman, Hossain Zillur

Topic(s): COVID-19, Economic Development

Journal Article

Adapting Disability Research Methods and Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Experiences from the Field

Publisher: IDS Bulletin

Date: 2022

Author(s): Banks, Lena Morgon; Willan, Samantha; Inglis-Jassiem, Gakeemah; Dunkle, Kristin; Ganle, John; Shakespeare, Tom; Khan, Rifat Shahpar; Hameed, Shaffa; Machisa, Mercilene; Watson, Nicholas; Carpenter, Bradley; Smythe, Tracey; Mthethwa, Nomfundo; Seketi, Queen; Wilbur, Jane; Nzuza, Ayanda; İlkkurşun, Zeynep; Tetali, Shailaja; Huq, Lopita; Clyde, Amanda; Hanass-Hancock, Jill

Topic(s): COVID-19

Policy Brief

Adolescent Girls’ Vulnerabilities and Transitions in the Context of COVID-19

Publisher: BIGD

Date: 2022

Author(s): Sultan, Maheen; Huq, Lopita; Rahman, Khandker Wahedur; Arman, Md. Raied

Topic(s): COVID-19, Social Transformation

Journal Article

COVID-19 Vaccination: Willingness and Practice in Bangladesh

Publisher: Development Policy Review

Date: 2022

Author(s): Faruk, Avinno; Quddus, Ishmam Al

Topic(s): COVID-19

Policy Brief

Education Life of Children During COVID-19: Trends in Learning Loss, Digital Inclusion, Mental Health, and Child Labour

Publisher: BIGD, Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC)

Date: 2022

Author(s): Rahman, Hossain Zillur; Rahman, Atiya; Islam, Md. Saiful; Faruk, Avinno; Kabir, Eradul; Matin, Imran; Wazed, Mohammad Abdul; Zillur, Umama; Hossain, Md. Billal; Haque, Md. Masudul

Topic(s): COVID-19, Education, Skills and Jobs

Report

Adolescent Girls’ Vulnerabilities and Transitions in the Context of COVID-19

Publisher: BIGD

Date: 2022

Author(s): Sultan, Maheen; Aktar, Taslima; Rahman, Khandker Wahedur; Pabony, Nuha Annoor; Noshin, Maliha; Nath, Shravasti Roy; Labib, Mahir; Islam, Md Zahirul; Kabir, Farhana; Huq, Lopita; Hossain, Md Rakib; Chowdhury, Kabita; Arman, Md Raied; Antara, Iffat Jahan; Mamun, Saklain Al

Topic(s): COVID-19, Social Transformation

Journal Article

Ethnography of Community Governance: A Case of COVID-19 Response of an Urban Slum in Bangladesh

Publisher: Community Development Journal

Date: 2022

Author(s): Zaman, Shahaduz; Hossain, Faruq; Matin, Imran

Topic(s): Cities, COVID-19, Governance and Politics

Book/Book Chapter

In Search of Justice: Untold Tales of Domestic Violence Survivors

Publisher: BIGD, GIZ Bangladesh

Date: 2022

Author(s): Sultan, Maheen; Akter, Marufa; Mahpara, Pragyna.; Pabony, Nuha Annoor; Tasnin, Fariha; Hossain, Sara; Titir, Abdullah; Sidddiki, Esrat Jahan; & Antor, Sadiul Islam

Topic(s): COVID-19, Gender Justice

Working Paper

Recovery With Distress: Unpacking COVID-19 Impact on Livelihoods and Poverty in Bangladesh

Publisher: United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research

Date: 2022

Author(s): Rahman, Hossain Zillur; Rahman, Atiya; Islam, Md. Saiful; Faruk, Avinno; Matin, Imran; Wazed, Mohammad Abdul; Zillur, Umama

Topic(s): COVID-19, Economic Development

Working Paper

Livelihood Transitions and Coping With Shocks: Women in the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) Sector Coping With COVID-19

Publisher: BIGD

Date: 2022

Author(s): Kabeer, Naila; Huq, Lopita; Aktar, Taslima; Mamun, Saklain Al; Alam, Afsana; Nath, Shravasti Roy; Sultana, Razia

Topic(s): COVID-19, Skills and Jobs, Social Transformation

Working Paper

Livelihood Transitions of Women Workers During COVID-19: Domestic Workers in Dhaka

Publisher: BIGD

Date: 2021

Author(s): Kabeer, Naila; Huq, Lopita; Aktar, Taslima; Mamun, Saklain Al; Alam, Afsana; Nath, Shravasti Roy; Sultana, Razia

Topic(s): COVID-19, Social Transformation

24 February 2022
Dipanwita Ghosh and Dhanista Chakma

The COVID-19 crisis has made face masks the new normal, presenting qualitative researchers with a new challenge when trying to build rapport with research participants. Dipanwita Ghosh and Dhanista Chakma share insights and strategies on conducting qualitative field research while...

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25 July 2021
Pragyna Mahpara, Nuha Annoor Pabony and Fariha Tasnin

Transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery is an integral part of sustainable development. It includes ensuring access to justice for all. In particular for survivors of domestic violence who often cannot seek justice out of fear of social repercussions...

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22 April 2021
Subaita Fairooz

Photo: Marcel Crozet / ILO The ready-made garments (RMG) sector is by far the most important contributor to the economy of the country, amounting to 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employing nearly four million people....

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24 March 2021
Faruq Hossain and Shamael Ahmed

COVID-19 is forcing us to discover alternative ways of doing things; qualitative field research, which traditionally calls for close interaction between researchers and their populations of interest, had to be reimagined to satisfy the need for social distancing, a preventative...

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20 January 2021
Sonia Afrin, Tanvir Shatil, and Atiya Rahman

Exploring the personal and structural barriers to proper handwashing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh, this blog highlights BRAC’s innovative approach to behavior change and the programmatic interventions aimed at promoting handwashing as a preventive measure against the virus.

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14 July 2020
Sayema Haque Bidisha and Avinno Faruk

Photo: © Dominic Chavez/World Bank licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 With the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Bangladesh on 8 March 2020 and the initiation of a lockdown on 26 March 2020¹, the livelihoods of a significant number of...

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3 June 2020
তানভীর শাতিল

১. সামাজিকতায়, সাংস্কৃতিক কুশল বিনিময়ের "দৈহিক ভাষা" যা মূলত মানুষের সাথে সংযুক্ত থাকার ভংগী (ইতিবাচক অর্থে), "ধর্মীয় আচার প্রতিপালন",  ঈদ বা খুশির ধারণা ও ধর্মীয় মূল্যবোধ, প্রিয়জনদের দূরে রেখে ঈদ করার কষ্ট, চিরায়ত সাংস্কৃতিক অভ্যাস ও মূল্যবোধ, মৃত্যুভয়কেও তোয়াক্কা করে...

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1 June 2020
মোঃ মাহান উল হক

যখন করোনায় প্রতিদিন আক্রান্ত আর মৃত্যুর সংখ্যায় রেকর্ড হচ্ছে, যখন মানুষ করোনায় মাস দুয়েক ধরে চলা জীবন ও জীবিকার লড়াই নিয়েই বড় ক্লান্ত ঠিক তখনই মড়ার উপর খাড়ার ঘা হিসেবে সুপার সাইক্লোন ‘আম্পান’ এর থাবায় জনজীবন বিপর্যস্ত। এখন পর্যন্ত পাওয়া...

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23 May 2020
Mushtaq Khan and Pallavi Roy

Why the COVID-19 Response is Undermined by Corruption ‘Flattening the curve’ and lockdowns have sadly become part of our new vocabulary. That this is not just about limiting patient numbers temporarily but primarily about using the opportunity to scale up...

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16 May 2020
Nusrat Jahan

The world has always been an unfair place with winners and losers. Technology is making lives better for everyone as a whole, but it is also responsible for exacerbating the inequality between the rich and poor. Relentless, exponential technological progress...

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10 May 2020
Mehid Hasan Munna

What looks like a picture of a parallel universe is, in fact, Sweden. Its citizens are seemingly living their everyday lives during a global pandemic that has halted the rest of the world. If it seems rather unbelievable, it is...

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5 May 2020
Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, Dr Imran Matin, and Dr Oscar H Franco

করোনাভাইরাস -২০১৯ (কোভিড-১৯) মহামারী সরকার, অর্থনীতি ও স্বাস্থ্যসেবা ব্যবস্থাকে এক অভূতপূর্ব সংকটের মুখোমুখি দাঁড় করিয়েছে। আজ পর্যন্ত, এই ভাইরাস মোকাবেলায় কোন কার্যকর টীকা বা চিকিৎসা আবিস্কৃত হয়নি, আর নিকট ভবিষ্যতে এটি যে পাওয়া যাবে এমন সম্ভাবনাও দেখা যাচ্ছে না ।...

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Unmeaning Per Capita Income Increase, GDP Growth

Publisher: New Age

Date: 2022

Topic(s): COVID-19

How Pandemic Causes Thousands of School Dropouts

Publisher: The Business Standard

Date: 2022

Topic(s): COVID-19, Education

দেশে নতুন দরিদ্র ২১ লাখ

Publisher: Bangla Tribune

Date: 2022

Topic(s): COVID-19

Inflation Pushes 21 Lakh Into Poverty: Study

Publisher: The Business Standard

Date: 2022

Topic(s): COVID-19

05

Jun '22

PPRC–BIGD COVID-19 Panel Survey Phase V: Inflation, Coping, and Recovery Challenges

11:00 am Webinar

The ongoing inflationary pressures have negatively affected the real income, food security, and essential household expenditures of the low-income households in Bangladesh and significantly disrupted their economic recovery from the...

04

Nov '21

PPRC-BIGD Rapid Research Response Phase IV Part II: Trends in COVID Impact on Livelihood, Coping, and Recovery

12:00 pm Webinar

View PowerPoint slides Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) have been jointly conducting a multi-phase study since April 2020 to capture the evolving health and...

18

Oct '21

PPRC-BIGD Rapid Research Response Phase IV Part I: COVID-19 and Education Life of Children

12:00 pm Webinar

View the PowerPoint slides Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) has been jointly conducting a multi-phase COVID-19 Livelihoods and Recovery Panel Survey since April...

12

Oct '21

BIGD-ISAS Webinar: Governing COVID-19 in Bangladesh: Realities and Reflections to Build Forward Better

9:00 pm Webinar

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies organized a critical discussion on the governance realities in Bangladesh and beyond, based on the recent State of...

16

Sep '21

BIGD-Covid Collective Webinar | Governing COVID-19 in Bangladesh: Realities and Reflections to Build Forward Better

8:00 pm Webinar

Presentation | Research Brief | Full Report COVID-19 is a global shock and has proved to be the ultimate stress test for governance capacities across the world. This impact is particularly profound in developing countries like...

13

Sep '21

State of Governance in Bangladesh 2020–21: Dissemination of Report Findings with MAGD Alumni

7:00 pm Webinar

Invite-only The State of Governance in Bangladesh Report was an annual flagship publication of BIGD that explored critical governance issues by analyzing the context and underlying dynamics and highlighting systemic strengths and...

29

Jul '21

State of Governance in Bangladesh 2020-21: Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic

7:00 pm Webinar

Presentation | Research Brief COVID-19 has proved to be the ultimate stress test for governance capacities all over the world. In developing countries like Bangladesh, it has exposed serious gaps in the governance of critical sectors,...

01

Jul '21

Evidence to Action: COVID-19 and the Deepening Learning Crisis – How Can We Build Forward Better?

12:30 pm Webinar

Presentation on Evidence from Bangladesh: Dr Imran Matin | Presentation on Global Evidence: Dr Rachel Glennerster BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) organized an online discussion on the implications and emerging...

22

Jun '21

COVID Effects on the Youth of Bangladesh

6:00 pm Webinar

View the PowerPoint slides here | View the report here BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) completed a survey in January 2021 on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the youth of Bangladesh. The youth are...

10

May '21

PPRC-BIGD Rapid Response Research Phase III: Part 2 – COVID-19 Impact on Education Life of Children

11:00 am Webinar

View the PowerPoint slides here Since the closure of schools in March 2020, more than a year ago, there have been severe disruptions in the education life of children, especially those from poorer groups. The extended closure has...

20

Apr '21

PPRC-BIGD Rapid Response Research Phase III: Poverty Dynamics and Household Realities Part 1

11:00 am Webinar

View the powerpoint slides here One year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the poor across Bangladesh are still struggling with their livelihoods and facing emerging vulnerabilities, like mounting debt and dwindling savings. Specially,...

21

Jan '21

Paradox of Korail slum during COVID-19: Ethnography of Governance

4:00 pm Webinar

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMLyopEKc4A View the webinar deck here Urban slums are one of the most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic; overcrowding and resource constraints make physical distancing and...

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