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Understanding Urban Livelihood Trajectories in Bangladesh
Concern is implementing the Irish Aid funded 'Improving the Lives of the Urban Extreme Poor (ILUEP)' Programme in Bangladesh from 2017 - 2021. Concern has commissioned research to explore and understand different livelihood trajectories, during and after their participation in the ILUEP, as well as looking at the impacts of policy.
Rapid urbanisation has taken place in Bangladesh, and urban populations have increased significantly due to rural-urban migration. The unplanned expansion of urban areas forced a large number of the populace to live in slums, with slum-dwellers, squatters and pavement dwellers living in an extremely vulnerable position. Even though there are 145 social safety net programmes in Bangladesh, run by 23 ministries, most of these programmes do not address the concerns and needs of the urban poor and fail to support them.
The ‘Improving the Lives of the Urban Extreme Poor’ (ILUEP 2017-2021) programme in Bangladesh aims to move 9,000 pavement dweller, squatter and undeveloped slum dweller households (over 30,000 direct beneficiaries) in Dhaka and Chattogram out of extreme poverty through providing a comprehensive package of support including asset transfers, training, savings facilities, nutrition support, gender equality and prevention of gender-based violence, improved WASH facilities and promotion of improved hygiene practices, advocacy for improved service delivery, and support to a number of Pavement Dweller Centres.
Concern, along with our partners in the Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex, the Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka and Development Research Initiative (dRi) undertook a series of detailed interviews with 36 pavement dwellers, squatters and undeveloped slum dwellers in the urban areas of Dhaka and Chattogram in 2019 to understand their livelihood conditions and to set a baseline to understand the impact of the ILUEP programme. This report provides information on the following areas – material conditions of poverty (income, cash needs, savings, borrowing, urban livelihood challenges), social conditions of vulnerability (social capital), and government and NGO services.
We returned to these households in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic was starting to take hold. The Round 2 research report describes the positive impact for almost all participants from engaging in the programme, particularly in terms of increased incomes after they received the asset transfer and business training. It also provides an overview of the impact of Covid-19 and the responses put in place.
The average number of days worked fell dramatically, meaning the incomes of many participants fell to zero, with people surviving only by using their savings and business capital to buy food and pay for basic needs. The research found that women were disproportionately vulnerable to losing all of their income during the lockdown, perhaps because some men took risks and continued working, which women were unable or unwilling to do. Many programme participants experienced hunger, some were unable to pay their rent and faced eviction by their landlords, they could not pay for medicines and could not afford to repay their debts.
Concern has continued to follow up with a smaller number of those included in the research to see how the pandemic has continued to affect them. This shows that while it will take a long time for people’s livelihoods to recover, by September, we were beginning to see a continued slight, but consistent improvement in people’s ability to earn an income, and as a result purchase food.
This publication covers aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of Irish Aid. The ideas, opinions and comments therein are entirely the responsibility of its author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect Irish Aid policy.