The rate of child stunting—low height for age, an indicator for chronic undernutrition—is still high, at 36 percent. However, it is dropping fast, down from 41 percent in 2011 and 51 percent in 2004. The country is on course to meet global targets for reducing stunting among children under five. However, wasting—a sign of acute undernutrition—remains very high: 14 percent, compared to the global target of five percent.
To accelerate progress toward ending hunger and undernutrition, Bangladesh has partnered with Compact2025 as a focal country.
In mid-August, Shenggen Fan (IFPRI Director General) and Teunis Van Rheenen (IFPRI Head of Partnerships) visited Bangladesh to build momentum for Compact2025. Joined by Akhter Ahmed, head of IFPRI’s Bangladesh Policy Resarch and Strategy Support Program, the team met with more than ten representatives from development partners and donor agencies to discuss options on how to further accelerate progress in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
They met with Bangladesh’s Minister of Agriculture, Matia Chowdhury. Minister Chowdhury is a strong proponent of interventions to reduce undernutrition. She reiterated to reporters at a special press briefing introducing Compact2025 to national media what she had told attendees at the International Conference on Nutrition in Rome end of 2014: “Let me assure you that Government of Bangladesh is committed to tackling … these challenges at all levels to achieve the improvement of nutrition and food safety …”
Under her leadership, the country is providing widespread vitamin A supplementation, has been reducing the prevalence of goiter through salt iodization, and has increased the production and consumption of fruits and vegetables. In addition, Bangladesh has instated policies to improve maternal and child health.
“Under the prime minister's directives, initiatives have been taken so that all government and private workplaces provide facilities for working mothers to take good care of their babies while at work," she told the Daily Star.
Akhter Ahmed added a recommendation for food security and nutrition based on IFPRI research in Bangladesh: “The government spends 12 percent of its annual expenditures on safety net programmes… IFPRI studied the impact of these programs for two years and found out that if nutrition education is made a part of these programs, the number of stunted children can be reduced faster.”
Through Compact2025, the integration of research-based evidence and food policy that helps people on the ground will be further expanded and strengthened to help the country meet all its hunger reduction and nutrition goals.