Speakers at a discussion in the city on Wednesday called for breaking the cycle of malnutrition by stamping out the menace of girls’ getting married early in Bangladesh.
They also urged for scaling up nutrition programme alongside efforts to ensure food security through higher productivity and more investments in agriculture.
They were speaking at a gathering of food and nutrition stakeholders held at a city hotel under the aegis of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). There were 40 attendees representing leaders in private sector, academia, NGOs and civil society. Their wide-range discussion on food security and nutrition aimed to identify new areas for collaboration to address challenges in nutrition.
Rasheda K Chowdhury, a former adviser to a caretaker government, underscored the need for launching a social movement against the trend of early marriages because girls’ getting married early is one of the root causes of stunted growth in many children in Bangladesh.
Hossain Zillur Rahman, another ex-adviser of a caretaker government, who moderated the discussion, urged all stakeholders to focus on urban poor, adolescents, lowly-paid jobholders and other marginalized communities during policy formulation exercises on food and nutrition issues.
He underscored the need of policy researches on emerging food security, food safety and nutrition issues as other discussants also said this is high time to do so as government would be soon starting preparatory exercise to formulate the 8th five-year plan.
Akhter Ahmed, who heads the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) operations in Bangladesh, emphasised on accelerating growth in farm productions. He noted that after decline in rice production growth in recent years, the rate of growth in agricultural GDP has been slowed down.
WFP Bangladesh’s Head of Social Safety Net Policies and Programmes, Rezaul Karim, drew government attention on carrying forward the school feeding programme that the UN agency had successfully initiated in Bangladesh back in 2002.
Some of the participants also urged government to make best use of the resources under social safety net programmes as there are allegations of substantial leakage in some of the programmes meant for the poor, ultra-poor and select groups of vulnerable communities.
Earlier, Richard Ragan, WFP Representative and Country Director, opened the session. Recently arrived in country, his remarks focused on the importance of local partners in achieving food security and nutrition targets. He said, “The UN relies on its partners to implement our programmes, and our partners are critical to achieve this. We welcome your ideas and feedback as we work together.”
Participants also explored the formation of new partnerships, especially with local governments and the private sector, to ensure improved nutrition outcomes for vulnerable groups in rural and urban areas alike.
Participants were appreciative of the Second National Plan of Action for Nutrition (NPAN2) and noted the strong commitment from government to improve nutrition outcomes. It was noted that nutrition is a multi-sectoral challenge that touches on many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The contributions of WFP in this area especially focus on strengthening the nutrition-sensitivity of social safety nets, advocacy for improved nutrition, post-harvest rice fortification and scaling-up of the government school feeding programme.