Facing turbulent times is nothing new for 65-year-old Safia Khatun who has been living in the capital's Kalyanpur slum for almost 30 years. Yet, she says, she has never faced a time like this, when she is struggling to put food on the table for her family members like never before.
"We do not eat three times anymore. We have reduced the daily number of meals to two," she told The Business Standard.
"After the pandemic struck, we could only have beef during the Eid season. But we still managed to eat eggs two or three times a week. Even that has changed now. It has been 10 days since we cut out eggs from our menu," she said, adding, "vegetables, potatoes and lentils are all we can manage these days."
Safia lives with her son, his wife and a granddaughter in a small room in the slum.
"It has been almost 10 years since my husband died. I used to work at people's houses. Now I sell leafy vegetables and earn some Tk250-300 every day. My son works at a private company and earns Tk5,000 a month," said Safia.
Yanur Begum, another resident of the slum, told The Business Standard that she earns Tk10,000 by working at homes and has to support three sons and daughters with this income.
"I do not even remember when I last ate chicken," she said.
"A few times a week I used to cook curry with eggs. Now I cannot afford even that. Last night, I went to bed on an empty stomach as there was nothing to eat," Yanur said.
"A single egg is priced at Tk15! Prices of everything have gone up but our earnings did not increase," she added.
Talking to at least 35 residents of the slum on Monday, TBS found that not only Safia Khatun or Yanur Begum but also most people like them who have done away with meat from their food list long ago. Now they have excluded chicken, fish and even eggs due to the soaring food prices over the last few months. It is especially since the increase in fuel oil prices that many are unable to include eggs in their diet.
Another slum dweller Farid Uddin, a day labourer, said four members of his family of five earn and support the family.
"All of us together earn some Tk25,000 a month. Even with that it has been really difficult to survive," he said, adding that Tk20,000 is spent on house rent, bills and for buying rice and lentils.
With the remaining Tk5,000, the family can only manage vegetables, mashed potatoes and lentils in their meals, he said.
Abdul Majeed, another slum resident, said that he last ate beef during Eid-ul-Azha.
"Hopefully, we will get to eat beef again on the next Eid. But now I cannot even afford eggs," he said in despair.