Bangladesh needs to make its nutrition sector a priority in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 as 12 of the 17 goals are directly linked with nutrition, experts said at a roundtable on Wednesday.
The discussants also hailed various initiatives and action plans undertaken by the Bangladesh government to fight malnutrition in recent years.
Prothom Alo, in association with Concern Worldwide and Civil Society Alliance for Scaling Up Nutrition (SCA-SUN), organised the roundtable on multisectoral Bangladesh national plan of action for nutrition (NPAN 2) at CA Bhaban in Karwan Bazar.
Despite success in the nutrition sector in recent years, 36 per cent of children under-five are stunted and 32 per cent are underweight, according to Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2014, said Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC) assistant director Akter Imam in his keynote paper.
He, however, said that there is indication of improvement in BDHS survey 2017.
The government has taken the new NPAN2 (2016-2025) which provides a strong basis for the multi-sectoral response needed to fight against malnutrition, he added.
National Nutrition Service’s (NNS) line director SM Mostafizur Rahman said coordination among the ministries in multi-sectoral plan is a challenge.
He said that stress should be given on more discussion with the grassroots level victims of malnutrition.
Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC) director general Md Shah Nawaz said multisectoral approach has been improving the nutrition scenario of the country although there is still a crisis of adequate manpower in the sector.
He also said coordination committees have been formed in district and upazila levels to speed up nutrition programmes.
As many as 22 ministries have been included in the programme and total budget allocation for nutrition has been increased as well, Shah Nawaz added.
Bangladesh Breastfeeding Council chairman SK Roy suggested that more fund be allocated in nutrition programmes as it gets a small percentage of health ministry’s budget.
Obesity among the children is a big problem right now as Bangladesh is undergoing an economic transition, he added.
Mostafa Faruq Al Banna, associate research director (nutrition) at the food ministry’s planning and monitoring unit said the rate of stunting has reduced to 31 per cent from 51 per cent in 2004.
But still a lot need to be done to attain the SDG stipulated goal to reduce stunting to 12 per cent by 2030, he added.
Nutrition policy adviser at Food and Agriculture Organisation MA Mannan urged the authorities to engage private organisations in nutrition programmes.
Alive and Thrive’s Mohsin Ali termed the ongoing decade as ‘golden decade for nutrition programme in Bangladesh’.
He stressed institutionalisation of nutrition programmes and focus on nutrition situation in urban areas of the country.
CSA for SUN co-chair Saiqa Siraj said coordination among different stakeholders are key for success in nutrition.
Concern Worldwide nutrition adviser Md Amir Hossain said accountability in local level is important for nutrition programme’s success.
Various initiatives have been taken including open discussion to this end, he added.
BNNC’s assistant director Nazmus Salehin, UNICEF’s nutrition officer Asfia Azim, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’s Moniruzzaman Bipul, Care Bangladesh’s Naznin Rahman, Plan International Bangladesh’s health advisor Ikhtiar Uddin Khandaker, Save the Children in Bangladesh’s senior technical advisor Raisul Haque, among others, spoke at the programme.
Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayyum moderated the roundtable.