Lockdowns have financial and social prices for world’s poorest households

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Lockdowns have economic and social costs for world's poorest families

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Low socioeconomic families – and women in particular – experienced heightened financial hardship, food insecurity, domestic violence and mental health issues during the COVID-19 lockdown in Bangladesh, a new research study shows.

In the first of its kind, Australian and Bangladeshi researchers documented the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdown measures on the wellbeing of women and their families in rural Bangladesh. The study found that families with low socio-economic levels experienced a range of economic and mental health problems during the two-month stay at home, and women reported increases in intimate partner violence.

The study, published today in The Lancet Global Health, suggests that in the event of future public health bans, the well-being of families – and especially women – must be actively addressed.

The lockdown had devastating effects

Like many countries around the world, Bangladesh limited the spread of COVID-19 using stay-at-home (or lockdown) orders in April and May 2020. Using an existing research network in Bangladesh, a team led by Walter and Eliza worked together to assess the impact of the lockdown on financial stability, food security, mental health and domestic violence in 2,424 families in a rural community in Bangladesh Bangladesh fairs.

The budgetary impact of the lockdown has been worrying, said Associate Professor Sant-Rayn Pasricha of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

"While the lockdown was an essential public health measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we were concerned about the problems this might pose for the families in our study," said Associate Professor Pasricha.

"When we compared the situation of families before and during the lockdown, we found significant financial and mental health pressures during the lockdown."

The study found that 96 percent of families saw employment declines and 91 percent considered themselves financially unstable.

"During the lockdown, nearly half (47 percent) of families saw their incomes fall below the international poverty line of $ 1.90 a day," said Associate Professor Pasricha.

"Seventy percent were affected by food insecurity, and one in six families had run out of food, went hungry or missed meals."

The lockdown also had mental health effects, with women showing an increase in symptoms of depression and 68 percent of participants reporting their anxiety levels had increased. Regarding the women who reported emotional, physical, or sexual violence from their intimate partner, more than half of the reported violence had increased since the lockdown.

Families need more support

Associate Professor Pasricha said the study showed the lockdown had unintended but devastating consequences for families.

"Orders for more than two months at home in a rural South Asian setting have placed an enormous economic and psychosocial burden on women and their families," he said.

Associate Professor Pasricha said the results reflected similar studies that indicated the effects of home ordering on food security and nutrition are being felt worldwide.

"The sharp rise in severe food insecurity in our study population shows the impact of economic pressures on food access and supports modeling that suggests the pandemic could have catastrophic effects on food security and, consequently, nutrition around the world.

"Our study, which is the first of its kind, underscores the need for widespread welfare and other forms of financial support for families affected by lockdowns, not just those on low incomes. Social support is critical to protecting women's safety and security it is important that domestic violence intervention services remain accessible during lockdown.

The lead researcher of Bangladesh, Dr. Jena Hamadani, International Center for Diarrheal Diseases in Bangladesh, said she hoped the research will help educate governments about the need for social assistance for people in rural communities in low and middle income countries during the lockdown.

"We hope that our results will be of value to public health officials and will inform and improve future public health actions if the lockdowns continue," said Dr. Hamadani.

The study shows that violence between children and parents "increases significantly" during lockdown

More information:
The Lancet Global Health (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / S2214-109X (20) 30366-1

Provided by
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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