The nutritional status of Bangladeshis has been threatened by COVID-19 as it has brought poverty to most of them, experts from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations said on Monday.
Speaking at a webinar on nutrition-sensitive social protection in the context of Bangladesh, they said that it was imperative for the government to widen nutrition-sensitive social protection programmes for the people, ensuring unbiased selection of beneficiaries and reducing corruption.
FAO and Press Institute of Bangladesh jointly organised the webinar.
Speaking as keynote speaker, FAO national poverty and social protection adviser Professor Mizanul Haque Kazal, citing a study of BRAC, said that income of 95 per cent families in Bangladesh has shrunk due to the COVID-19 and 51 per cent families’ income neared zero.
He said that three per cent families have no food, 16 per cent have food for one to three days and 22 per cent have food stock for one month.
‘To widen social protection programmes is important now more than ever,’ said Mizanul.
‘COVID-19 fallout has brought about poverty that is threatening the nutrition of Bangladeshis,’ he said, adding, ‘growth of one-third of Bangladeshi children are now being hampered.’
Alongside expansion of social safety programmes, Mizanul suggested the government reduce corruption and ensure unbiased selection of the beneficiaries.
‘Political commitment for ensuring “leakage-free” and “unbiased selections” of beneficiaries sans corruption and nepotism is crucial,’ he said.
Mizanul said that 10 per cent Bangladeshis were ultra-poor before the COVID-19, and now the rate has increased.
‘Social protection should be ensured in a sustainable way as pandemic like COVID-19 make the poor more vulnerable,’ he said.
He further said that 23 ministries are now implementing social safety programmes in the country now, but those programmes lack nutrition sensitivity.
‘When Bangladeshis suffer from multi forms of malnutrition - under nutrition, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, these social safety programmes should be nutrition sensitive,’ Mizanul said.
FAO chief technical adviser in Bangladesh Naoki Minamiguchi, PIB director general Zafar Wazed, food ministry’s Food Planning and Monitoring Unit director Firoz Al Mahmud, among others, spoke.
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