Food production has increased in the country, food diversification has come, food supply has increased. Besides, people’s awareness about food and nutrition has also increased.
Bangladesh has achieved commendable success in health indicators such as life expectancy, maternal and child mortality, total fertility rate (TFR). In the last 50 years, Bangladesh has also made significant improvements in various nutrition indicators. However, a section of nutritionists think that although the country has improved in nutrition, it has not always been consistent.
The height and weight of children under the age of five have increased in the last five decades since independence. At this time the rate of lean children has also decreased. This figure is seen to be clear in systematic data collection. As shown in the 1998–96 Health and Demographic Survey, 80 percent of children were short, meaning they were shorter than their age. In the latest survey of 2016-17, this rate is 31 percent. In 1996-97, underweight children of the same age were 52 percent, now it is 22 percent.
Anemia in children and women is considered a problem of malnutrition. Anemia was once seen as a major public health problem. According to the Department of Health, 55 percent of pregnant women in 1990 suffered from this problem. At that time, 63 percent of children under the age of five had this problem. In 2016, the rate for women and children decreased to 48 and 40 percent, respectively. Now it has decreased even more. After independence, there was an outbreak of night blindness in almost every house in the country. But now that problem is gone.
Nutrition in state policy
Improvements in nutrition have been made possible by the adoption and implementation of independent policies, plans and programs in independent countries. The framers of the constitution considered the duty of the state in the matter of nutrition to be one of the principles of governance. The second part of the constitution of Bangladesh describes the principles of governing the state. Article 16 (1) states: “The state shall regard the improvement of the nutritional status of the people and the improvement of public health as one of the primary duties.” Although the constitution has been torn down at various times with important changes in the basic principles of governance, no one has touched the place of nutrition. It is a manifestation of the politicians’ commitment to nutrition.
The government established the Public Health Nutrition Institute in 1974 to formulate policies and strategies on nutrition programs. Then in 1975 the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council was formed by order of the President. The Prime Minister is the head of this council.
SM Mostafizur Rahman, line director of the National Nutrition Services Program , told Prothom Alo , “The food and agriculture sectors have made a great contribution to improving the nutrition situation in the country. Food production has increased in the country, food diversification has come, food supply has increased. The availability of quality and balanced food has increased. Besides, people’s awareness about food and nutrition has also increased.
The national nutrition policy was approved in 2015. Earlier, some more policies, plans and programs played a role in advancing nutrition. Notable among these are National Food and Nutrition Policy, National Nutrition Action Plan, Bangladesh Integrated Nutrition Project and National Nutrition Project. In the past and present, the government has assisted in the nutrition work and is doing so many small and large non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and various donor agencies.
For almost a decade, the government has been pushing for the inclusion of nutrition in the mainstream of healthcare. On the other hand, nutritionists say that improving nutrition should not be the sole task of the Ministry of Health. For example, they say, clean water supply and sanitation have a big role to play in improving nutrition. The Ministry of Local Government is responsible for providing clean water and sanitation. Nutritionists have been saying for several years that a total of 14 ministries, including local government, food, agriculture, fisheries, education and information, should be effectively involved in nutrition activities. The government is now implementing the Second National Nutrition Action Plan (2016-2025). At the same time nutrition service program is going on.
As a result of various activities of the government, the rate of feeding vitamin A to children aged 6 to 59 months in the country is more than 95 percent at present. Within one hour of birth, the rate of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age has increased significantly. In addition, 34 percent of children aged 6 to 23 months get supplementary food. More than 75 percent of the population gets enough calories. This has improved the overall situation of child nutrition in the country and especially women’s nutrition.
All children should have the same height and weight
However, in the field of nutrition, there is a lot of talk about policies and plans, but there are also some complaints of weaknesses and limitations in implementation. No major civic movement on nutrition has been formed or noticed. Let all children be of equal height and equal weight, let all people eat a balanced diet কেউ no one is raising this demand.
Nutritionist SK Roy said, “We are in a better position than some neighboring countries or a few countries in Africa in some of the nutrition indicators. Compared to 50 years, our progress has been slow. This speed must be increased. This requires visionary planning, massive allocations and the appointment of nutritionists across the country.