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We study the prevalence of COVID‐19 symptoms in refugee and host communities and their correlates with current and pre‐COVID‐19 living conditions. We administered a phone‐based survey to a sample of 909 households in Cox’s Bazar which was drawn from a household panel representative of Rohingya refugees and the host population. We conducted a symptoms checklist to assess COVID‐19 risk based on the WHO guidelines. We included questions covering returning migration, employment, and food security. We asked additional questions on health knowledge and behaviors to a random subsample (n=460). 24.6% of camp residents and 13.4% of those in host communities report at least one common symptom of COVID‐19. Among those seeking treatment, a plurality did so at a pharmacy (42.3% in camps, 69.6% in host communities). While most respondents report good respiratory hygiene, between 76.7% (camps) and 52.2% (host community) had attended a communal prayer in the previous week. Another 47.4% (camps) 34.4% (host community) had attended a non‐religious social gathering. The presence of returning migrants, respondent mobility, and food insecurity strongly predict COVID‐19 symptoms. Conclusion. COVID‐19 symptoms are highly prevalent in Cox’s Bazar, especially in refugee camps. Attendance at religious and social events threatens efforts to contain the spread of the disease. Pharmacies and religious leaders are promising outlets to disseminate life‐saving information.

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Working Paper
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May 19, 2020
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Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh has received multiple waves of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar since the 1970s, but late 2017 saw the largest and fastest refugee influx in Bangladesh’s history. Between August 2017 and December 2018, 745,000 Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, following an outbreak of violence in Rakhine State. As of December 31, 2019, Teknaf and Ukhia sub-districts host an estimated 854,704 stateless Rohingya refugees, almost all of whom live in densely populated camps (UNHCR 2019).

Researchers from Yale University, the World Bank, and the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) initiative started the Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) in order to provide accurate data to humanitarian and government stakeholders involved in the response to the influx of refugees. The survey is an in-depth household survey covering 5,020 households living in both refugee camps and host communities. This quantitative data collection is complemented with qualitative interviews with adolescents and their caregivers.

In line with the 2018 Global Compact for Refugees commitment to promote economic opportunities, decent work, and skills training for both host community members and refugees, this brief presents a set of stylized facts on the socioeconomic status of Rohingya refugees in 2019 and in the year preceding the latest outbreak of violence.

The aim is to better understand the ways in which the challenges faced by Rohingya refugees while they were living in Myanmar are likely to affect their ability—and the ability of future generations of Rohingya—to attain a better living standard in their host communities, with a view to informing policy and programming.

Drawing from a survey on retrospective employment and labor income from the first round of panel data in 2019, we compare three groups: the population of Myanmar, Rohingya people who crossed the border into Bangladesh in 2017, and those who left Myanmar prior to 2017 and are currently living in Cox’s Bazar.

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April 30, 2020
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Globally, violence against women is a leading cause of premature death and morbidity for women and almost one-third of women report experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their life. Yet rigorous evidence on scalable and effective ways to reduce IPV is limited, in part because measuring IPV is challenging. Current standards of practice for reducing gender-based violence are also relatively limited in scope, focusing mainly on changing gender norms. Designing and testing new approaches has the potential to yield more effective solutions. IPA’s Intimate Partner Violence Initiative, a partnership with the International Rescue Committee, exists to address these challenges. The initiative designs and tests innovative solutions to IPV, leverages existing research to identify factors that contribute to IPV and works to address methodological and measurement challenges in violence research and related fields. With our academic and implementing partners, IPA has identified a number of effective solutions, including mass media campaigns, coupling women’s economic empowerment with gender dialogue, and teaching secondary school students soft skills. Results from several initiative-supported studies are forthcoming. Further research will be needed to validate results in new contexts and at scale, and to design and evaluate new ideas.

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Brief
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October 22, 2019

This paper studies the impact on well-being and business outcomes from teaching stress-management practices to small firm owners in Bangladesh. Female owners were randomly assigned either to a treatment group that received a 10-week Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) course featuring priority-setting and relaxation techniques, or to a control group exposed to Empathic Listening. CBT leads to large initial reductions in owner stress, but no initial increase in firm profits. Six months after receiving CBT, owners in sectors with a low concentration of women show large and significant effects on stress, and their firms show increased profits. By contrast, owners in female-dominated sectors experience a short-lived reduction in stress, and firms show no changes in profits. The large post-treatment differences in well-being and profits between industries suggest that the ability to manage stress is malleable, and that industry choice proxies for traits that are strongly correlated with returns to training.

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October 31, 2017
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Three hundred million of the world’s rural poor suffer from seasonal income insecurity, which often occurs between planting and harvest when the demand for agricultural labor falls and the price of food rises. Those who undergo a lean season typically miss meals for a two- to three-month period. This is especially problematic for pregnant women and young children since poor nutrition for even a short time can limit long-term cognitive and physical development. Seasonal hunger and deprivation is perhaps the biggest challenge to the reduction of global poverty that has remained largely under the radar.

Members of some families in poor rural areas migrate to urban areas for work to cope with seasonal deprivation. In Bangladesh, however, researchers observed that many vulnerable households, who could potentially reap large benefits from temporary migration, didn’t send anyone away to work, thereby risking hunger. Why weren’t more people migrating? Would these households improve food security if they were to send a migrant to these areas during the lean season? More broadly, why were so many people sticking around in relatively unproductive rural areas, in the face of persistent gaps in wages and productivity between urban and rural areas? Was this akin to the proverbial $100 bills being left on the sidewalk?

A research team from Yale University, the London School of Economics, the University of Sydney, and Innovations for Poverty Action investigated these questions in Northern Bangladesh during 2008-2011, testing whether providing information or small financial incentives, worth about the cost of a bus ticket, increased migration and in turn, improved household welfare. They found that households offered either a grant or loan to migrate were substantially more likely to send someone to work outside the village during the lean season, and those families increased caloric intake relative to those not offered the incentives. Many of those households chose to re-migrate on their own a year later. A replication and expansion of the study during 2014-2016 not only confirmed these findings, it also showed that larger scale emigration increases wages and work hours in the village of origin, indirectly benefiting other residents who stay back.

Read about Evidence Action's scale-up of the program here. 

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December 29, 2016
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A clustered randomized trial in Bangladesh examines alternative strategies to reduce child marriage and teenage childbearing and increase girls’ education. Communities were randomized into three treatment and one control group in a 2:1:1:2 ratio. From 2008, girls in treatment communities received either i) a six-month empowerment program, ii) a financial incentive to delay marriage, or iii) empowerment plus incentive. Data from 19,060 girls 4.5 years after program completion show that girls eligible for the incentive for at least two years were 22% (-9.9ppts, p<0.01) less likely to be married under 18, 14% (-5.2ppts, p<0.01) less likely to have given birth under 20, and 21% (5.6ppts, p<0.05) more likely to be in school at age 22. Unlike other incentive programs that are conditional on girls staying in school, an incentive conditional on marriage alone has the potential to benefit out-of-school girls. We find insignificantly different effects for girls in and out of school at baseline. The empowerment program did not decrease child marriage or teenage childbearing. However, girls eligible for the empowerment program were 12% (3.1ppts, p<0.05) more likely to be in-school and had completed 2.9 months (0.24 years, p<0.10) of additional schooling.

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Working Paper
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December 28, 2016

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