• Saturday, Jun 25, 2022
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Much needs to be done for a malnutrition-free Bangladesh

  • Published at 05:56 pm August 29th, 2020
Minara, a 19-year-old Rohingya mother of three children, is struggling to provide nourishment to her infant child since she herself has been suffering from malnutrition. Her struggle reflect the difficulties that overburdened mothers face ar different refugee camps in Cox's Bazar
Photo: Zayed Shitol

Malnutrition is one of the biggest reasons behind child deaths in the country

Malnutrition contributes most to abnormal growth and disability in a child. A 20-month-old malnourished baby boy born to a couple — Golam Rasul Uddin and Aysha Begum — is no exception.

Married happily, the couple was blessed with a child after 10 years of their married life.

Though Aysha was gleeful after giving birth to a baby son, she has been passing an agonizing time for the last few months due to the sickness of her son Rafi.

Rafi did not seem to be a healthy baby in terms of his age, and he was not even eating the food necessary for his health for the last few days. Sensing something wrong with the baby’s health, his parents took him to the upazila health complex in Moulvibazar’s Sreemangal where doctors diagnosed Rafi with severe malnutrition.

Rafi’s weight is only six and a half kilograms, much below to his required weight of 9-10 kg. Moreover, his height is also not enough.

Aysha said she was married off at the age of 15 years and Rafi is the only son in their 10-year-long married life.

Like Rafi, three-year-old Rabbi Miah, two and a half years old Sunny, and four-year-old Paritosh were also admitted at the health complex with severe malnutrition.

Partitosh’s mother Rani Dey said her son has been suffering from severe malnutrition from an early age. He weighed only 1.5 kg after birth. Four-months ago he was admitted at the hospital. After five days of treatment, the doctors released him [Paritosh] and gave some medicines with vitamins. Now, his weight has increased to 12 kg. He, however, is not as tall as he should be at this age, Rani added.

According to the registers of health complexes and other hospitals and clinics of Sylhet and Moulvibazar, many children have been admitted at health facilities with severe malnutrition and height complexity.

Different non-government organizations (NGOs) are working along with local government health complexes to address these problems.

Early-life malnutrition is an important risk factor for later-life adult diseases as social determinants related to gender, education, sanitation, and poverty are the key drivers of for undernutrition.

Recommendations from experts

Malnutrition contributes mostly to child deaths, and saving lives of children in Bangladesh will require a steady focus on nutrition.

Experts said the United Nations (UN) gave importance on nutrition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As per SDG-2, a country needs to become hunger-free, achieve food security, and remove all types of malnutrition. So, the government should give more importance on the issue of malnutrition, they added.

Child specialist Prof Dr Monir Hossain of Dhaka Shishu Hospital said many mothers are not aware about the feed of their children from the first day of birth to two years of age. Moreover, they are not aware of the required level of nutrition essential for their children from her pregnancy to two years of birth.

According to a survey of UNICEF conducted in 2013, low education rate of mothers and socio-economic hardships are related to the state of malnutrition of their children.

As per the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS) 2014, the percentage of short children from one to five years is 36% while it was 41% in 2011, 43% in 2007, and 51% in 2004. As per the report, the rate of short children is higher in Sylhet division which was 49.6% in 2014.

The NGOs are working for gathering adequate knowledge, ridding mothers and children of poverty, and empowering the women economically.

Dr Monir said adequate nutrition is needed for the overall development of children. Otherwise, they would suffer mentally, he added. “Lack of proper awareness of parents and early marriage are the main reasons behind the malnutrition of children,” he continued.

Department of Family Planning’s Director of Nutrition Dr Mohammad Younus said the rate of malnutrition is being decreased. “There is a ‘Pusti Corner’ (nutrition corner) at every upazila health complex across the country. Besides, our field-level employees are advising mothers and fathers as well about the importance of nutrition for their children and mothers,” he added.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the consequences of malnutrition are too broad, too deep, and too costly for society to ignore.

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