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Benefits of food production boom bypass poor

Malnutrition cripples half of girl children: Study

FE Report | March 28, 2018 00:00:00

Bangladesh is one of the worst countries in the world where around 44 per cent of Bangladeshi women suffers from anaemia due to lower intake of nutritious food, according to a report.

The report also said that some 50 per cent of the country's girl-child is suffering from malnutrition, of which 35 per cent are underweight.

At the same time, some 32 per cent of the country's adolescent girls (10 to 18 years of age) are stunted compared with their age, which is 42 per cent for women as around 60 per cent of females eats non-nutritious food.

The report was presented on Tuesday at a national seminar on 'Food situation and food rights of women and girl-child' at the CIRDAP auditorium in the city.

Right to Food Bangladesh (RFB) with the support from Christian Aid organised the seminar.

Food minister Qamrul Islam addressed the programme as the chief guest.

Director of the Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies of Dhaka University Professor Mahbuba Nasreen, Department of Women Affairs director general Kazi Rowshan Akter, joint secretary of the Women and Children Affairs Ministry Abdul Karim, ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB) country director Farah Kabir, Christian Aid Bangladesh country director Shakeb Nabi and RFB general-secretary and WAVE Foundation executive director Mohsin Ali also spoke at the seminar.

RFB vice-chairman Khandker Ibrahim Khaled chaired it.

Referring to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's 'State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World-2017' report, RFB general-secretary said that there are 25 million people in Bangladesh who are suffering from malnutrition.

However, the number of malnourished people has increased in the country by 0.7 million in the last decade.

He said the rate of malnutrition is still high in Bangladesh, despite the decline in the number of infants suffering from underweight, stunting and skinniness.

Citing Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data, Mr Mohsin said there were 39.30 million people in the country living under the poverty line, of which 20.80 million are extreme poor.

Most of the poor people in the country cannot afford to take 2,122 kilocalories of food a day, though the country has made significant progress in food production, he added.

He said the development programmes such as education, healthcare and employment generation should be taken up in key poverty-stricken areas and communities to address food security and nutrition.

He also underscored the need for making a complete database of beneficiaries of different social safety net programmes so that women and girl-children can be better targeted and prioritised.

Women and girl-children are the most vulnerable to malnutrition, he said.

In his speech, the Food Minister said that the government has enacted a law in 2013 and established Bangladesh Food Safety Authority to ensure safe food for all citizens.

"There is no monga (seasonal food insecurity) in the North Bengal at this moment as the situation of food security has changed in the last 10 years," he said.

He said the food intake by women and children in the country had changed as the government had been running over 150 social safety net programmes.

Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), old age allowance, maternity allowance, allowance for urban low-income lactating mothers, allowance for the widows, and selling Tk 10 kg rice via open market sale are among such programmes.

He also said that the discrimination in food intake among men and women, and boy-child and girl-child has decreased and only some people are doing discrimination because of their lack of consciousness.

Noting that it is not possible to ensure food security and nutrition in the country only by law, Ibrahim Khaled said a social system needed to be developed to secure the food rights of every citizen.

Mr Khaled, a former deputy governor of the central bank, said, "It is true that the country has made notable progress over the years, but still the country has a long way to go to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," he said.

The social change can happen in the country through the development of education and healthcare sectors, he added.

Mrs Kabir said that food security doesn't mean only having the right to eat rice, pulse, vegetables and meat, rather access to clean drinking water is the most important.

"Food security wouldn't be ensured without uninterrupted supply of clean water no matter how much nutritious food is provided to women and girl-child suffering from malnutrition," she added.

She also stressed the need for recognising women's household chores as work and ensuring social dignity as part of empowering them.

The ActionAid country director also called for rigorous social campaign to make people aware of malnutrition.

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