Bangladesh cho­sen as fo­cal coun­try to fight world hunger, malnutrition


Pro­ject­ing Bangladesh as a fo­cal coun­try, a global ini­tia­tive would be launched in the United States in Novem­ber to end hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion by 2025.

Com­pact2025 — the pro­gram de­signed by the Washington-based global food pol­icy think tank In­ter­na­tional Food Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute (IF­PRI) — aims at achiev­ing global food se­cu­rity and nutri­tion by 2025, five years ahead of 2030, the year set for achiev­ing Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDG).

With the ex­pi­ra­tion of the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDG), the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly is set to adopt a res­o­lu­tion this Septem­ber to in­cor­po­rate the SDG into the post-2015 agenda.

Bangladesh has achieved the MDG goal of halv­ing poverty well ahead of the tar­get pe­riod.

Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina and Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Ma­tia Chowd­hury have been in­vited to at­tend the Com­pact2025 launch in Novem­ber in Washington, D.C.

IF­PRI di­rec­tor gen­eral Shenggen Fan is com­ing to Dhaka this week to en­gage with the gov­ern­ment, de­vel­op­ment part­ners and media in con­nec­tion with the Nov. 18 launch of Com­pact2025.

Speak­ing to The Daily Star yesterday, Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Ma­tia Chowd­hury wel­comed the Com­pact2025 ini­tia­tive and said the gov­ern­ment was com­mit­ted to strongly fight hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion.

“Un­der the prime min­is­ter’s di­rec­tives, ini­tia­tives have been taken so that all gov­ern­ment and pri­vate work­places pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties for work­ing moth­ers to take good care of their ba­bies while at work,” said Ma­tia.

A con­cept note of the Com­pact2025 read, “Hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion are two of the great­est scourges fac­ing our planet to­day. We can elim­i­nate both, and we can do so by 2025, which will also help end ex­treme poverty and will con­trib­ute to achiev­ing mul­ti­ple Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

“By work­ing across sec­tors and with mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers to pro­vide ev­i­dence-based knowl­edge with an em­pha­sis on coun­try-led progress, Com­pact2025 will con­trib­ute to the achieve­ment of global food se­cu­rity and nutri­tion by 2025,” it added.

Akhter Ahmed, chief of party of the Bangladesh Pol­icy Re­search and Strat­egy Sup­port Pro­gram, IF­PRI, ex­plained to The Daily Star that the gov­ern­ments of Bangladesh and two other African na­tions — Ethiopia and Rwanda — have shown firm com­mit­ments to work for fast erad­i­ca­tion of hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion.


That was why these were taken as fo­cal coun­tries, he added.

“In Bangladesh we have achieved the MDG goal on poverty-re­duc­tion well in ad­vance, but still 28 mil­lion peo­ple con­sume be­low the daily min­i­mum diet re­quire­ment of 1,800 kilo calo­ries be­cause of a large pop­u­la­tion base,” Akhter ob­served.

The num­ber of stunted (too short for one’s age) chil­dren (un­der-five) dropped from 41 per­cent in 2011 to 36 per­cent now, which is still very high, Akhter reck­oned.

Stud­ies from Ethiopia, In­dia and Nige­ria show that ev­ery US$1 in­vested in re­duc­ing child stunt­ing, an in­di­ca­tor of un­der­nu­tri­tion, gen­er­ated be­tween US$12 and US$34 in eco­nomic re­turns.

Akhter said coun­tries like Brazil, China, Thai­land and Viet­nam have suc­ceeded in re­duc­ing un­der­nu­tri­tion quite fast and the “Com­pact2025 would cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for oth­ers to learn from their lessons.”

He added there were a good num­ber of so­cial safety-net pro­grams (SSNPs) in op­er­a­tion in Bangladesh and ear­lier stud­ies showed that if SSNPs were tagged with nutri­tion ed­u­ca­tion, these could make a big dif­fer­ence in the fight against hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion.

Makhduma Nar­gis, ad­di­tional sec­re­tary to the health and fam­ily wel­fare min­istry, told this cor­re­spon­dent that en­sur­ing food se­cu­rity was no longer a big chal­lenge now.

Mak­ing peo­ple aware of the nutri­tion as­pects of food they con­sume was rather more im­por­tant, she added.

“Through com­mu­nity clin­ics we’re try­ing to ed­u­cate peo­ple and make them aware of the value of nutri­tion in their diet,” said Makhduma, also the pro­ject di­rec­tor of Re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of Com­mu­nity Healthcare Ini­tia­tive in Bangladesh.

Dur­ing the 2015-2025 pe­riod the Com­pact2025 pro­gram would pro­vide re­search-based guid­ance on de­vel­op­ing, im­ple­ment­ing and scal­ing up suc­cess­ful poli­cies and strate­gies; fill knowl­edge gaps in de­sign­ing coun­try-led food se­cu­rity and nutri­tion strate­gies; iden­tify prag­matic, ac­tion-ori­ented strate­gies to ad­dress chal­lenges on the ground while learn­ing from stake­hold­ers at all lev­els and from all sec­tors; and work with coun­tries to de­velop con­text-spe­cific, prac­ti­cal road maps to ac­cel­er­ate the elim­i­na­tion of hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to IF­PRI, it is pos­si­ble to end hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion by 2025 by adapt­ing suc­cess­ful strate­gies em­ployed by coun­tries such as Brazil, China, Thai­land and Viet­nam.

China and Viet­nam — both agri­cul­ture based-so­ci­eties where small­hold­ers dom­i­nate — have suc­cess­fully adapted agri­cul­tureled strate­gies: Viet­nam had re­duced hunger from 45 per­cent in 1990-1992 to 13 per­cent in 2012-14 and China re­duced child stunt­ing from 32 per­cent in 1990 to 8 per­cent in 2010.

Brazil em­ployed so­cial pro­tec­tion-led strate­gies and tar­geted nutri­tion in­ter­ven­tions to elim­i­nate hunger and re­duce child stunt­ing from 19 per­cent in 1989 to 7 per­cent in 2007.

Thai­land adapted agri­cul­tureled as well as so­cial pro­tec­tion-led strate­gies and tar­geted nutri­tion in­ter­ven­tions to rapidly re­duce hunger and un­der­nu­tri­tion.

It re­duced hunger from 36 per­cent in 1990 to about 7 per­cent in 2012- 14 and re­duced child stunt­ing from a rate of 25 per­cent in 1987.

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