48pc of hospitals designated for treating malnutrition remain inactive

  • Number of children below 5 years 16,000,000

  • Children suffering from acute malnutrition 358,592

  • 12,083 children received treatment in 2022

  • 16 children are receiving treatment for malnutrition every month

  • 44 per cent of the hospitals do not have equipment for measuring height and weight


UNICEF conducted the survey in December, 2022. The results of the survey, conducted to evaluate the preparations of the government hospital in treating children with acute malnutrition (SAM), was presented in an event organised at a five-star hotel in the capital. The National Programme for Nutrition and UNICEF jointly organised it.

The number of children below five years in the country is 16,000,000. Of them, some 2.3 per cent or 360,000 are suffering from acute malnutrition. The weight of the children suffering from acute malnutrition remains low as compared to their height. In some cases their weight decreases drastically. These children have a weak immune system. The mortality rate among these children is high.

There are medical centres for treating these children in the upazila and district level hospitals as well as in medical college hospitals and health training centres. There are 487 such medical centres across the country. The survey was conducted on 436 of them.

The survey data

Before presenting the data of the survey, ATM Reza Uddin, deputy programme manager of the national programme on malnutrition, highlighted mismanagements at several centres.

He brought out several pictures which showed the special food and medication (F-75 and F-100) allocated for malnourished children being wasted without any use.

While presenting the survey data, he said, “It has been seen at several centres that despite having F-75 and F-100 in the warehouse, the hospital staff are not giving it to the children. In many cases, the physicians do not even know about the stock of F-75 and F-100 at the hospitals.

The physicians and nurses need special training to treat children with acute malnutrition. Therefore, the government has trained up some 419 physicians and 916 nurses and sent them to different hospitals. However, during the survey, 61 per cent of these trained physicians and nurses were not at the those hospitals.

Equipment for measuring height and weight is essential for treating malnourished children. The government also had provided such equipment to different hospitals. However, there was no such equipment in 44 per cent of the hospitals during the survey. Due to these reasons, the improvement in nutrition is not as expected.

Piyali Mustaphi, chief of nutrition section of the UNICEF in Dhaka, said, “Bangladesh has seen huge success in eradicating malnutrition. Now the country is in the final stage of its journey in this regard. There are several small areas and sectors where the level of malnutrition is still very high. Work should be done in these areas with utmost importance.”

The nutrition situation

Md Moniruzzaman, programme manager of the National Nutrition Programme, said, “Nutrition level of a little more than 4.3 million children was measured last year. Of them, some 23,399 suffered from acute malnutrition. However, only 12,083 of those children received treatment."

It means that around 1000 children are admitted to hospitals with malnutrition every month on average. That is only 16 children from each district get the chance to get admitted to hospital for malnutrition.

The survey further shows that the Sylhet division is lagging far behind in terms of nutrition. The number of children suffering from malnutrition is high in this division as compared to other divisions.

However, Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), could not accept the fact that the rate of malnutrition is higher in Sylhet.

He said, “I can’t understand how the rate of malnutrition can be higher in Sylhet. There must be some miscalculation.”