A Timely Response for the Sudden Poor An Early Evaluation of BRAC’s New Poor Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the global economy, particularly in Bangladesh. The government imposed social distancing measures, including travel bans and lockdowns, causing severe economic disruptions. A joint study by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) found that 22.9% of the population became “new poor” after the first lockdown. Many of these new poor lived in urban areas and worked in construction, driving, and factory work. The high cost of living in cities forced many to return to their village homes. The recovery process took a hit when infection rates rose again, and a second lockdown was imposed from 23 July to 10 August 2021. In this context, BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) program initiated the New Poor program under BRAC’s Economic Recovery Strategy (2021–2022), as a part of a rapid crisis response. BIGD conducted a mixed-method study, a combination of a quantitative quasi-experiment—difference-in-differences (DiD)—and a qualitative focused ethnography. The study reveals that the pandemic’s economic damage influenced program design and implementation, leading to the use of loans instead of grants. Key learnings include UPG staff’s expertise in targeting the ultra-poor and the importance of trust in risk management.

Authors: Gomes, Mohima; Shatil, Tanvir; Jahan, Nusrat; Tahsin, Nabila; Das, Narayan C; Matin, Imran
Type: Report
Year: 2022