Ruszczyk H.A., Rahman M.F., Bracken L.J., and Sudha, S. (2020) Contextualising COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on food security in two small cities of Bangladesh, Environment and Urbanization. DOI: 10.1177/0956247820965156/


The COVID-19 pandemic is an evolving urban crisis. This research paper assesses impacts of the lockdown on food security and associated coping mechanisms in two small urbanizing cities in Bangladesh (Mongla and Noapara).

The paper is based on two distinct periods of empirical work.

  1. The first round of fieldwork was conducted in September–October 2019 and explored subjective understanding of the liveability of regional cities from the perspectives of a range of residents and stakeholders. This research was conducted as part of the ‘Liveable Regional Cities’ research project, funded by SHLC’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund.
  2. The second round of fieldwork, building on the first, was conducted in May–July 2020 and was a rapid analysis to understand the challenges imposed by COVID-19 on food (in)security and coping mechanisms during the nine-week lockdown period of March–May 2020.

This research shows that COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting low-income households who live, in any case, in everyday tenuous circumstances. However, it is also having an impact on middle-class households.

This research paper highlights the vulnerability of a multiplicity of poor people in small cities who are often not covered by social safety net programmes in Bangladesh. To create socially inclusive, economically equitable and environmentally sustainable development requires closer attention to where people live in the world – including small urbanizing cities where most residents are struggling, trying to make do through their own efforts.