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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fish consumption and household food security in Dhaka city, Bangladesh

12, March 2021 |


Mandal S.C.Boidya P.Haque M.I.-M.Hossain A.Shams Z.Mamun A.-A.


The effects of COVID-19 are continuing to increase around the world as the pandemic claims thousands of lives. Bangladesh is no exception and has been greatly affected by SARS-CoV-2. Apart from the number of people who are or have been directly getting infected with this disease, millions of people are directly or indirectly facing many challenges to their livelihoods and the security of their food and nutritional supply, along with other societal issues created by the pandemic. In this study, a hybrid approach of online and telephone questionnaire surveys was used to investigate the food security of Dhaka city’s inhabitants at household level. Approximately 80% of the respondents reported reduced income, and a quarter of respondents lost their jobs between March and June 2020. The frequency of fish consumption, an essential component of Bangladeshi diets, significantly reduced during the pandemic. This was especially apparent in affluent segments of the community. Out of the respondents, 75% reported an increase in the price of fish in Dhaka city. A range of coping strategies were observed: including decreasing the frequency of grocery shopping, shifting to online shopping, reducing con­ sumption of high price commodities, reducing junk food consumption, cleaning fish and meat with hot water and vinegar, and increasing the consumption of protein and vitamin C rich food items. Prior to COVID-19, 80% of the households surveyed bought fish from wet markets. This number dropped to 45% during the pandemic. Many households substituted fish and meat with poultry, eggs and dried fish. About half of the households stockpiled rice, lentils and potatoes during the peak of the pandemic. However, if the pandemic lasts for a prolonged period, those living on low incomes in urban areas will experience some level of food insecurity from a reduced income or loss of work. Because of this, a large-scale sustainability policy should be undertaken to secure the food and nutritional security of low-income and middle-class household.