Nutrition status in Bangladesh
Prothom Alo infographic

Bangladesh has fallen behind in meeting global nutrition goals and there are doubts about meeting up 62 per cent of the goals in this regard.

Bangladesh has no alternative to integrated initiatives to improve the nutritional situation in the country.

This information came up in a policy dialogue on nutrition at a hotel in the capital on Monday.

The policy dialogue was jointly organised by the National Nutrition Programme and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) programme of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), a global initiative with support from the World Health Organization (WHO).

It was said in the dialogue that Bangladesh has progressed a lot in terms of nutrition. However, that advancement is not enough. The coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war have made the situation worse. There are 13 nutrition goals in the list of SDG (Sustainable Development Goal). Bangladesh has to meet these goals by 2030. However, there are doubts about meeting most of these goals considering the progress that the country has made so far.

SM Mostafizur Rahman, line director of the National Nutrition Programme, said, “There are doubts about meeting goals on eight indicators. These are – childhood obesity, intake of the right amount of sodium, high blood pressure in women, high blood pressure in men, obesity in men, obesity in women, diabetes in women and diabetes in men."

He further said, “Bangladesh has made a little progress on four indicators. These indicators are – stunted children, skinny children, infants born underweight and less breastfeeding."

However, there is no progress on anaemia in women. The situation on this indicator has become worse. The speakers at the event said that the health ministry alone cannot improve the situation. The task is not only theirs either. Therefore, some 23 ministries of the government are working more or less on it.

Top officials of the health ministry, local government ministry, education ministry, agricultural ministry and food ministry along with representatives from different associate bodies of the United Nations and local and foreign NGOs, were present at the event.

It was said at the dialogue that Bangladesh made 12 commitments, including reducing the rate of stunted children to 25 per cent from 31 per cent, the rate of skinny children to 7 per cent from 9.8 per cent and reducing the rate of underweight new-born to 10 per cent from 14.8 per cent, to improve the country’s nutritional situation during the global summit named ‘Nutrition for Growth’ held in Japan in 2021.

The top nutritionists of the country have been demanding for the creation of the post nutritionists and their recruitment at the district and upazila level for more than a decade.  Bangladesh also promised to recruit nutrition officers in all the 64 districts.

Kazi Zebunnessa Begum, additional secretary of the Health Services Division (World Health Wing), presided over the dialgoue. She said, “The work on the creation of the post of nutritionist and their recruitment is underway.”

Earlier, Anwar Hossain Howlader, secretary of the Health Services Division, said, “Many children do not take nutritious food. One of the reasons behind this is lack of nutritious food. The other reason is the lack of awareness.”

A participant in the open discussion said that research needs to be conducted on an emergency basis to assess the current situation on nutrition in the country following the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

Line director SM Mustafizur Rahman said, “It is not possible to conduct a survey even on the Gulshan Market with the manpower that the Institute of Public Health Nutrition has at the moment. Therefore, a large manpower is needed to assess the nutritional situation of the entire country.”