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The Pandemic and Food Insecurity in Small Cities of the Global South: A Case Study of Noapara in Bangladesh

Rahman, M. Feisal and Ruszczyk, Hanna A. (2021) 'The Pandemic and Food Insecurity in Small Cities of the Global South: A Case Study of Noapara in Bangladesh.', in Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities, Volume 1: Community and Society. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 83-91. Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities., Volume 1


The unfolding economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fault lines in existing food systems in both developed (Lawrence, 2020) and developing countries (Rahman et al, 2020). Bangladesh, a densely populated and rapidly urbanizing nation of roughly 180 million people went into a ‘general holiday with restrictions on movement’ (referred to internationally as lockdown) on March 26, 2020. The majority of economic and social activities within the country ceased as a consequence. The lockdown was eventually relaxed on June 1, 2020, with specific instructions to maintain social distancing. As of September 7, 2020, Bangladesh had 325,157 cases of COVID-19 and 4,479 people had died from the virus (Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), 2020). A rapid-response research conducted by the Power and Participation Research Centre and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development of Bangladesh (Rahman et al, 2020) in April 2020 in Bangladesh observed a steep drop in income leading to a contraction in food consumption as evidenced by reduction in food expenditure by 28 percent for urban informal settlement respondents and 22 percent for rural respondents. Similar to experiences in other countries (Despard et al, 2020), the lockdown resulted in an income shock, particularly for the urban poor. While there are reports of how communities in major cities have been impacted (Taylor, 2020), little is known about the lived experiences of residents in smaller cities and how food systems and food security in these towns were impacted. Indeed, small and mid-sized cities remain academically and professionally ignored and unexplored despite the fact that the world’s urban majority reside in those cities (Satterthwaite, 2017; Ruszczyk et al, 2021). The relationship between food security, food systems, and sustainability also needs engaged consideration within these small cities (Mackay, 2019). Understanding this relationship is crucial because urban poverty and food insecurity are inter-related. Tacoli (2019) explains that most urban residents not only need to purchase the majority of their food but, unlike in rural areas, it is their main expenditure. Local governments in small cities also have curtailed capacity, minimal funding under their control, and often lack political power to fulfill their responsibilities. These pre-existing socio-economic conditions indicate that food security and food systems in small cities were also likely impacted by the pandemic-induced lockdown. In order to address this knowledge gap, a rapid assessment study focusing on two small cities namely Mongla and Noapara in southwestern Bangladesh was undertaken. This chapter will share findings from the data collected from Noapara before, during, and immediately after the lockdown. In doing so, the chapter will delineate the challenges imposed by COVID-19 on food (in)security in Noapara and also identify associated coping mechanisms undertaken by affected residents.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 22 July 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review, pre-copy edited version of an extract/chapter published in Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities, Volume 1: Community and Society. Details of the definitive published version and how to purchase it are available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:20 August 2021
Date of first online publication:22 July 2021
Date first made open access:22 July 2023

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