Nutrition must be included in development programmes

Bangladesh had faced food shortage in the past, but the country has now become self-sufficient in food production. This is certainly a matter of hope.

However, despite ample food production, we still lag behind in combating malnutrition. A report on the state of nutrition prepared jointly by the Bangladesh government and the World Food Programme (WFP) reveals nearly 21 million people cannot afford a nutritious diet in the country at present while almost half of the population cannot afford balanced diet for their daily meals.

The report published on Wednesday reveals the accessibility of nutritious food and people’s purchasing capacity in Bangladesh.

According to the government account, 22 per cent of the population is poor while nearly 12 per cent are extremely poor.

Due to population growth, poverty elimination has not possible. The people living in extreme poverty consume rice, roti (flat bread) and other food with fewer nutrients leading to malnutrition. People living in Nilphamari and Kurigram cannot even eat three meals a day properly.

Bangladesh has some achievements regarding nutrition, too. There were 60 per cent children suffering from stunting in 1997. The rate decreased to 31 per cent in 2018. Yet, the nutrition condition in women remained low constantly. It is a matter of grave concern that one in every three woman aged from 10 to 49 does not have nutritious diet. It is important to consider how quickly we can overcome the current condition instead of counting achievements.

Government policymakers, every now and then, make promises to build a developed and prosperous country. This will not possible when a large number of its population live under the poverty line.

The government must consider the matter of nutrition with due importance in all its development programmes from now on. The government distributes rice and wheat among the poor under its social security programme, but the benefits are far from satisfactory.

Government has already introduced programmes to distribute nutritious biscuits in schools that have been helping to reduce malnutrition among students.

Such programmes may be adopted for poor women, especially for pregnant women as many children suffer from malnutrition because of the mothers.

Deputy director of WFP Bangladesh,Alpha Bah, said families living in poverty and with a lack of food security should be brought under the food security programmes to provide them with nutritious diet.

It is true that such programmes are not enough to meet the nutrition goals. For a sustainable solution, employment opportunity has to be ensured for every person and the income of poor people has to rise to meet there own needs for nutrition.

Instead of flaunting high GDP growth the government needs to concentrate on people’s nutrition condition as there is no alternative to healthy human resources for tangible development in the country.