This report was first published on Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha on May 7, 2017.
DHAKA, May 7, 2017 (BSS) - Malnutrition is still a major public health problem in the country as poor diet quality is undermining the efforts to improve nutritional status of the people, health experts told a seminar here today. Although Bangladesh has achieved self-sufficiency in food, it is still struggling to deal with malnutrition issues because of poor dietary practices, they told the seminar at a city hotel. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in cooperation with a number of organizations, arranged the seminar titled "Food system and nutrition in Bangladesh."
Food Minister Advocate Quamrul Islam addressed the function as chief guest while State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki and Dutch Ambassador to Bangladesh Leoni Cuelenaere spoke as special guests. Chief of Nutrition Section of UNICEF Anuradha Narayan, senior officials of different ministries and representatives of local and international organizations, among others, addressed the seminar with Additional Secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Ministry Roxana Quader in the chair. Executive Director of GAIN Dr Lawrence Haddad presented a keynote paper on "How can food system better support healthy diets? A global perspective" while IFPRI Country Representative to Bangladesh Dr Akhter Ahmed and Chief Technical Advisor (MUCH project) of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Naoki Minamiguchi made separate presentations on "Overview of food systems in Bangladesh" at the programme.
Quamrul said the government is implementing various programmes to ensure food security and improve nutritional status of the people to build a healthy nation.
"We have expanded social safety net programmes for the vulnerable people of society to resolve their food crisis during the lean period, which is eventually addressing the malnutrition problem," he added. The food minister said the government has also developed vitamin-A and zinc-enriched rice to provide nutrition support to the people.
State Minister Chumki said Bangladesh has achieved self-sufficiency in food by increasing crop production. She said, "We have to focus on children and women health and provide them with nutritious food to address the malnutrition problem." Taking this into consideration, the government has brought poor people under social safety-net programmes to ensure their food security, she added.
Highlighting linkage of poor dietary practices to different diseases, Dr Lawrence said low quality diets are the number one risk factor contributing to the global burden of disease. He stressed the need for taking collective actions in identifying the consumer needs and associated business environment involved in the food system in Bangladesh.
In his presentation, Dr Akhter said, "The people of Bangladesh largely depend on rice to meet the demand of their food." People should come out of rice-dependency dietary practices to improve their nutritional status, he added.
Other speakers said although the country has made progress in food security, challenges remain for many to access to safe and affordable healthy diets to achieve good nutrition outcomes.