Children living in the coastal and haor areas of Bangladesh were 1.5 times more likely to be stunted, according to a study.
The study report was disseminated during a seminar titled ‘Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Bangladesh’ organised by the Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia and Brac at the Brac Centre on Monday, said a press release.
The study identified haor and coastal belts in Bangladesh, which were geographically distinct from other parts (waterlogged and salinity-affected areas respectively), as pockets of under-nutrition where malnutrition was higher and the households in these areas had 16 per cent less income.
According to the study, the overall prevalence of stunting ranged from 46.6 per cent in the haor basin to 30.9 per cent in other parts of Bangladesh, whereas the prevalence of underweight ranged from 44.5 per cent in the haor basin to 34.1 per cent in other areas.
The number of people with malnutrition would decline if production of diet-diverse and nutrition-rich food items was increased, said the report focusing on agricultural innovations to fight malnutrition in the country.
At the seminar, the discussants also emphasised on the need to increase public awareness on these issues and called on the government to take up more initiatives to encourage farmers to cultivate diverse crops in order to increase nutritional outcomes.
Speaking at the programme as the chief guest, Fazle W Khondaker, additional secretary (research) to agriculture ministry, identified agriculture as the most important tool to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals and overall development.
Agriculture in the country presently was facing the major challenges from the adverse effects of climate change, unavailability of labour, floods and flash floods, severe storms, tidal surges, and other natural disasters, he said urging all sectors to work in close collaboration with each other.
Samir Kanti Sarker, director of the Institute of Public Health and Nutrition, said there was a need for health education alongside regular education to ensure nutrition outcomes.
Imran Matin, executive director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, mentioned that to achieve better nutrition, three things should be focused on among others: the role of access to information, the role of agriculture incentives and the role of food consumption behaviour. It was time to go for interventions and identify cost-effective approaches to address malnutrition through agriculture.
At the seminar, Lalita Bhattacharjee, senior nutritionist of FAO, Professor Abdul Bayes, former director of research and team leader of LANSA-BRAC also spoke on the occasion.
The seminar discussed different approaches to combat malnutrition for the poor, school nutrition and feeding programmes, encouraging more consumption of milk, increased food storage and processing capacity.
The discussants also recommended that special programmes should be adopted in response to the special needs of geographically fragile and vulnerable areas of the country.
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