Ending Hunger And Malnutrition Key To Economic Development In Bangladesh, Major Study Finds

Published on 26 October 2016

DHAKA - A major independent report released today emphasises that the Government of Bangladesh and its partners must rally to end hunger and improve nutrition to sustain the country’s remarkable economic trajectory.

Led by a team of national experts and guided by a wide range of stakeholders across the country, the report identifies substantial challenges to achieving zero hunger in Bangladesh, and makes recommendations on how to overcome them.

“Undernutrition already costs Bangladesh more than 1 billion dollars in lost productivity every year and even more in health costs,” said Siddiqur Rahman Osmani, Professor of Developmental Economics at Ulster University in Northern Ireland, who was in charge of the study. “No country can expect to build a thriving economy on the backs of hungry and undernourished people.”   

Professor Osmani, who has published extensively on poverty, hunger and nutrition in South Asia, spent the past ten months leading a team of senior experts with decades of experience in nutrition, agriculture, social protection, gender, food security and climate change, to produce a thorough and holistic assessment of food security and nutrition in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has made significant progress since the 1970s, when there was not enough food for everyone in the country. Since then, it has achieved overall food self-sufficiency and has had one of the fastest prolonged reductions in child undernutrition in recorded history.

The report lauds such gains as impressive, but cautions that they must not lead to complacency.

The report found that an alarmingly large number of people still remain food insecure and hungry – a quarter of the population, or 40 million people – and most people do not have a sufficiently nutritious and diverse diet. More than 1 in 3 children are still afflicted by stunted growth, and acute malnutrition has not decreased significantly over many years.

On top of this, the report continues, there are emerging concerns with food security and nutrition as a result of socioeconomic and climate change. Consequences, such as obesity and lack of food safety, may become particularly evident in urban slums.

To free all people of Bangladesh from the burden of food insecurity and undernutrition, the battle must be fought on many fronts simultaneously, with sufficient funding and accountability, the report states. It calls for a more diversified agriculture sector and an enhanced social protection system that leaves no one behind, and points out that empowering women is key to achieving sustainable food security and nutrition.

The report is being published as Bangladesh – like the rest of the international community – is defining exactly how to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 2 to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030.

“The report’s findings will be useful for Bangladesh in achieving SDG2 in the time span we have set for ending hunger by 2024 and tackling malnutrition definitely by 2030,” said Honourable Minister, Ministry of Finance, Mr Abul Maal A. Muhith.

The report, titled Strategic Review of Food Security and Nutrition in Bangladesh, was commissioned by the UN World Food Programme, and carried out by independent experts with the intent of fostering a shared understanding of the food security and nutrition situation in the country, and to better align the plans of the Government and partners to achieve SDG2.

The research team facilitated extensive participatory consultations and met with a wide range of stakeholders. Findings and recommendations were validated by an Advisory Committee which was chaired by the General Economics Division of the Ministry of Planning, and included representatives of civil society, academia, UN agencies and donors.  

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For more information please contact:
Daniel Svanlund, Communications Officer, WFP Bangladesh, daniel.svanlund@wfp.org, +880-175-564-