Ensuring food security during pandemics: Lessons from the COVID-19 lockdown in Bihar

  • The lockdown to contain COVID-19 was expected to threaten food security and lead to a deterioration of nutritional status, particularly of women and children.
  • A two-part study of six districts in Bihar compared dietary practices of women and their youngest child between pre-lockdown and lockdown periods.
  • It found a decline in dietary practices among women and that the dietary intake of children was very poor in both periods.
  • Ownership of ration cards cushioned the adverse effect of lockdowns.
  • Access to social safety measures varied across schemes. It was satisfactory for cash transfer to Jan Dhan accounts, and free rations to ration card holders. Cash transfers to ration card holders, coverage of the mid-day meal programme, and subsidised gas cylinders under Ujjwala scheme was less accessible.
  • Political contacts played an important role in making these social security measures accessible.