Maximum importance should be given to children and pregnant mothers in order to eliminate the malnutrition of the country and to make a country’s nutrition programme successful, said Prime Minister's Economic Affairs Advisor Dr. Moshiur Rahman at a seminar on Nutrition Governance. He also emphasised on the diversification of crops and the spread of social security programmes. The government must work to ensure nutrition for children which are a prerequisite to attain its mission to achieve SDGs by 2030. The seminar was organized by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University at a city hotel in Dhaka on 12 September, 2017.
“Agriculture is the centre of the discussion on nutrition since the agricultural policies affect the national health of a country” said Food Laureate and Co-winner of World Food Prize 2016 and founding director of HarvestPlus, Dr. Howarth Bouis, while presenting a keynote paper titled ‘Agriculture’s Primary Role to Provide Nutritious Diets for National Health’. He suggested that bio-fortification in agriculture would be cost-effective to arrange nutritious food varieties for the poor families.
Adequate zinc consumption is a must to ensure nutrition for all as deficiency of the essential mineral is one of the major barriers to the country's progress in nutrition indicators, he added. Zinc is essential for the function of many enzymes and metabolic processes, and the regular consumption of zinc can reduce different common infant morbidities, like diarrhoea, pneumonia and stunting, he said.
Citing a recent study, Howarth said approximately 70 percent people of Bangladesh do not have adequate zinc, thereby suffering from zinc deficiency. The government needs to put emphasis on the consumption of zinc and other nutrients, he said. It also needs to promote the crops containing nutrients to improve dietary quality, said Howarth.
Good nutrition is linked with effective intellectual capacity and higher productivity - this is critical for the social and economic development of the country, said Mr. Edouard Beigbeder, the country representative of Unicef Bangladesh. He also said the period of vulnerability to nutritional deficiencies starts when a child stays in the mother's womb, and it continues until the child becomes two years old, when brain develops significantly. “If a child is undernourished during this critical window of opportunity, the damage is irreversible and the potential to fully thrive in life will be lost,” he said.
Although the country has made a significant progress in the past decade in reducing chronic malnutrition, one in three children here are stunted which accounts for nearly 5.5 million of them being deprived of their right to survival and development, said Edouard.
Ms. Anuradha Narayan, nutrition section chief of UNICEF Bangladesh, said child stunting affected school readiness and performance as well as impacted the country’s economic productivity. She said the impact of nutritional deficiencies in food intake could reduce adult earning of the country by up to 15 per cent.
BIGD Research Fellow Dr. Shanawez Hossain said a collaborative effort was needed to solve problems in reaching remote areas with nutrition projects and in detection of acute malnutrition. Chaired by BIGD executive director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, the seminar was also addressed by parliament member Mr. Farhad Hossain, Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition director Professor Sandy Thomas, Brac Health, Nutrition and Population programme head Mahfuza Rifat, James P Grant School of Public Health Professor Dr. Malay K Mridha and Dr. Md. Tanvir Hasan, Bidyanondo Foundation Finance Secretary Mr. Jakir Hossain, among others.