Due to lockdown measures, this demographic has been marginalized even further
For the past decade, Bangladesh has been on track towards reaching middle income status, and has achieved an economic growth rate that has been nothing if not admirable. Much of this economic success is owed to our vast pool of cheap labour and informal jobs.
Now, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the urban poor who have played so vital a role in our collective economic ascent, are being neglected. They have long been forced to live in slums under unhealthy conditions, or worse yet, to squat on settlements or on the street, but now due to lockdown measures, this demographic has been marginalized even further. Evicted from their slums, they no longer have any place to go.
This newspaper has editorialized many times over the years about the need for clean, safe, and affordable housing for the poor. Regrettably, this problem never got the attention that it deserved, as it always seemed like less than a priority.
Now that a global pandemic has hit, and the scale of the problem has become stark. Human suffering has increased manifold, and for this we cannot blame the coronavirus, but weakness and failure of our policy to ensure proper homes for our urban poor.
It is good to see that some work is being done by NGOs to try to ease the sufferings of the poor and disenfranchised. But that will, ultimately, not be enough. We need targeted action that directly addresses the matters of livelihood, health, and housing.
As long as such a large portion of our population remains vulnerable to poverty and disease, the whole country is vulnerable. If we fail to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the poor, containing it at a broader level may become an impossible task.