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Number of urban poor increases in Bangladesh

Columns 2022-09-22, 11:00pm


Jehangir Hussain

Jehangir Hussain 

The number of urban poor increased in Bangladesh than it was 10 years ago.

By 2030, more than 50 per cent of the country’s poor are expected to be in the urban areas.

Though Bangladesh succeeded in reducing poverty rate to by 1.2 per cent since 2000, urban poverty has increased from 36.1 per cent to 41.4 per cent from 2010 to 2016.

A major contributor has been the growth of rapid urbanisation by 3.9 per cent annually.

Another factor has been the government’s traditional stress on slashing the povert rate in the rural areas and neglecting the urban poor.

There has been a lack addressing poverty reduction in the urban areas by the government and the non-government organisations (NGOs).

A comprehensive approach is needed, say development experts, to alleviate urban poverty if Bangladesh wants to reduce its poverty rate to 15.6 per cent by 2025.

The World Bank  in a recent report called for adopting new and innovative methods, including improving the programme  with goal of slashing the country’s urban poverty.

For this it’s important to understand urban poverty and properly defining the complex group of urban poor as the first step to developing programmes and adopt policies to slash poverty in the country’s urban areas.

It’s wrong to think that in Bangladesh the urban poor live only in slums.

RMG workers from rural areas live in dormitories,  elderly women abandoned by their families live  in one room on the edge of the slum, often youths after escaping from   violence of their families live in shacks and there are also women who live in railway stations after escaping from workplace violence and violence by husbands, and there are numerous other instances.

It’s, therefore, wrong to make half-hearted  efforts to reduce poverty only in the slums by not taking into account the diversity of the urban poor.

Experts called for wider and more effective interventions to address urban poverty without leaving any of the unidentified segments out.

There are pavement dwellers, squatter settlements, small slums on private and public land beyond the notice of the authorities and the NGOs that take interest in surveying the issue from time to time.

A study found that one of the country’s well-known urban poverty reduction programmes failed to reach smaller and harder to reach urban poor communities, though they were highly vulnerable due to their abject poverty.

These groups were socially too marginalised living on very precarious land.

It’s interesting that poverty alleviation programmes possibly did not address these groups’ poverty issue considering the possibility of the risk of their eviction or migration.

As a result, these groups continue to be excluded from the poverty reduction activities i8n urban centres.

Experts suggested for not viewing poverty alleviation as a process of formula that could be applied across all the varied urban poor communities or households for similar results.

They said that different poor communities, households and their needs cannot be put in the same or even similar category as their economic, social and health issues could be different with varied dimensions.

There is a need to understand for whom the alleviation programme would be designed, define the priorities and goals to reach the services to address the complex issue of urban poverty.

The rise in the country’s urban poverty is a reflection of leaving segments of urban poor out of the purview of economic and social progress achieved at different times.

There is a need for systematic planning and thinking to address growing poverty in the country’s urban centres, said economists.

The issue can no more be kept under the carpet, they said.