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Although Bangladesh has achieved some progress in reducing child malnutrition in the last decadefew years, the progress is slow. iInsufficient budgetary allocation acts as one of the major barriers to address the challenge of malnutrition effectively, said experts.
Special budgetary attention to child nutrition, focusing primarilyed on direct nutrition inventions, is very urgent to gain expected result, they viewed. The direct nutrition interventions include breastfeeding, appropriate complementary feeding, micronutrient supplementation, treatment of acute malnutrition, etc. These are proven interventions of value in improving nutrition of children.
The rate of reduction of child under nutrition is very slow in Bangladesh, only 1.9 percent in between 2007 to and 2011, said a joint study of Unnayan Shamannay and UNICEF, Bangladesh.
Stunting, wasting, anaemia and underweight are the major forms of malnutrition, said Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, director of Centre for Nutrition and Food Security of tThe International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (iIcddr,b).
Currently, around 41 percent of total under-five children are suffering from stunting, 16 per cent from wasting, 51 percent from anaemia and 36 percent from underweight in Bangladesh, he informed.
Prior to budget formulation, the government should make a comprehensive assessment ofthat how much allocation is needed to scale up the nutrition interventions that address child malnutrition. On the basis of assessment result, the government should allocate budget for this sector, he said.
It needs Tk 90 to 120 billion for providing effective nutrition services across the country for the period 2011-2021, annually Tk 9 to 12 billion, said a study. (Howlader et al -2012)
However, the Government of Bangladesh is currently spending much less in child nutrition as can be revealed from the budget of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, and Ministry of Primary and Mass Education.
The biggest nutrition project in the budget is the National Nutrition Service (NNS) that covers mainly childhood malnutrition, adolescent girls, and lactating and pregnant women. The budget for this project is Tk 1.84 billion in 2012-13 fiscal year, the paper said. Has Dr Ekhlasur Rahman or Dr Mustafiz of NNS seen this?
The NNS has an allocation of Tk 300 million each year for the bi-annual vitamin A supplementation programme. There are some other programmes in the Social Safety Net that partly contribute to reducing child under-nutrition. Maternity Allowance Programme for the Poor Lactating Mothers, Allowances for Urban Low-income Lactating Mothers, and Maternal Health Voucher Scheme.
Together, the budget on child nutrition programmes was nearly BDT 3.49 billion in 2012-13, the study said. This is one-third of what should be the ideal allocation for nutrition.
Malnutrition during the early stage of a child’s life permanently affects his/her physical and mental health and thereby stretches the impact on individuals as well as society in the long run.
A study said in 2011-12, about 160,000 child deaths could be avoided by reducing chronic malnutrition (stunting) while about 150,000 child deaths could be averted by reducing acute malnutrition (wasting). (Howlader et al -2012)
Talking about the importance of combating malnutrition, Dr Tahmeed said, “Investing to child nutrition is equal to investing into development.”
It can be estimated that investing in nutrition can increase a country’s GDP by at least three percent annually, said the seminar paper, adding that dedicated budget on child nutrition is important in sustainably reducing the high prevalence of under-nutrition currently challenging Bangladesh’s push towards middle income status by 2021.
The government has taken initiative to formulate a new nutrition policy modernising the existing National Food and Nutrition Policy, 1997. “We hope to get more budgetary allocation after formulation of the policy,” said Dr. Tahmeed.