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.