BACKGROUND: Food insecurity is a serious social and public health problem which is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic especially in resource-poor countries such as Nepal. However, there is a paucity of evidence at local levels. This study aims to explore food insecurity among people from the disadvantaged community and low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic in Province-2 of Nepal.
METHODS: The semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted virtually among purposively selected participants (n = 41) from both urban and rural areas in eight districts of Province 2 in Nepal. All the interviews were conducted in the local language between July and August 2020. The data analysis was performed using thematic network analysis in Nvivo 12 Pro software.
RESULTS: The results of this study are grouped into four global themes: i) Impact of COVID-19 on food security; ii) Food insecurity and coping strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, iii) Food relief and emergency support during the COVID-19 pandemic, and iv) Impact of COVID-19 and food insecurity on health and wellbeing. Most participants in the study expressed that families from low socioeconomic backgrounds and disadvantaged communities such as those working on daily wages and who rely on remittance had experienced increased food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants used different forms of coping strategies to meet their food requirements during the pandemic. Community members experienced favouritism, nepotism, and partiality from local politicians and authorities during the distribution of food relief. The food insecurity among low-income and disadvantaged families has affected their health and wellbeing making them increasingly vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection.
CONCLUSION: Food insecurity among low-income and disadvantaged families was found to be a serious problem during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study suggests that the relief support plan and policies should be focused on the implementation of immediate sustainable food security strategies to prevent hunger, malnutrition, and mental health problems among the most vulnerable groups in the community.