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Stunting, underweight prevalence still high among Gaibandha rural children

  • ANM Mohibub Uz Zaman, back from Gaibandha
  • 19 September, 2021 12:00 AM
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Stunting and underweight prevalence is still high among rural children in Gaibandha district as regional determinants among kids under five were not extensively explored.

Stunting and underweight reflects the long-term effects of malnutrition in a population, resulting in an impaired development.

During a visit to Modoner Para village under Kanchipara union in Fulchari upazila of Gaibandha, this correspondent found most of the children suffering from stunting and underweight.

Four-year-old boy Mahtab Ahmed Tamim was sitting by his mother in front of their house at the village.

His mother Urmi Akhter Tania said the weight of her child is 11.5 kg and height is 83 centimetres against the ideal weight of 16 kg and height of 92 centimetres at this age.

"We're able to provide him with rice and sometimes lentil and vegetables. We can cook meat and fish once in a month." "My husband is a farm labourer and he earns around Tk 250 each day. With this earning, we can't afford nutritious food for my children," she said.

Visiting the neighbouring house of Azizul and Lima, it was seen that two of their children -- Azmin and Arifa -- were eating rice with mashed potato.

Lima said, "Rice, lentil and potato are our main dishes that we consume each day. We can't afford nutritious food like fruits, meat and fish."

The weight of her three-year-old child Azmin is 11 kg and the height is 71 centimetres while that of five-year-old Arifa is 13 kg and 87 centimetres respectively.

The ideal weight and height of a three-year-old girl are 14 kg and 91 centimetres and that for a five-year-old girl are 18 kg and 93 centimetres respectively.

Rubina Akter, a community nutrition scholar of Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK), said 25 out of 30 children of the area have been suffering from stunting and underweight.

Abdus Salam, chief executive of Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK) which works in the districts, told the Daily Sun that lack of nutritious food and the inability of locals to purchase those are behind children in the rural areas of Gaibandha suffering from malnutrition like stunting and underweight.

Prices of nutritious food are beyond the purchasing capacity of the locals, he said, adding that maize and rice are the staple foods in the area.

Salam also suggested introducing cultivation of different food rich in vitamin and nutrition in the rural areas to resolve the crisis.

A latest district nutrition profile demography of Gaibandha shows that the nutritional status of children under five is far behind the national status. The stunting rate in Gaibandha is 30 percent while the national rate is 28 percent. The underweight rate in the district is 29 percent against the national rate of 23 percent. Dr AM Akhtaruzzaman, civil surgeon of Gaibandha, told the Daily Sun that nutritional status of the district is far behind the national status.

"There're many remote areas in the district. People living there don't have the opportunity to purchase nutritious food," he said, adding that the cultivation of food rich in nutrition like zinc rice, sweet potato and some other crops in the area may increase the nutrition level.

One out of every three children in the country is still stunted. About 22 percent of low birth weight babies are born. Children with poor health still account for about 8 percent, according to a recent report titled 'Fill the Nutrition Gap' by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

"Bangladesh is lagging behind in the nutrition index mainly due to the inability of the family. One in eight or 13 percent of the country's households are still unable to afford nutritious food due to inadequacy," said the report.

Food prices in Bangladesh vary considerably by food group. Staple foods with low nutrient density are cheapest per calorie, while nutrient-dense foods such as meat and fish are most expensive.