Women and girls in Bangladesh are more affected by the rising trend of malnutrition than their male counterparts, according to a UN study.
The report – The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 – was presented at a seminar in Dhaka on Tuesday. It also identified poverty and social discrimination as the biggest reasons behind malnutrition among the female population in the country.
The seminar, titled “Food Situation and Right to Food for Women and Girls,” was jointly organized by two NGOs, Right to Food Bangladesh and Christian Aid, and took place in CIRDAP auditorium.
The report, which was launched on September 15, 2017, was jointly prepared by UN agencies Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), and World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the WFP, around 50% of the girl child population in the country suffers from malnutrition. 35% of those affected are underweight.
According to Unicef, as backward views and social prejudice are still dominant in society, women – especially in poverty-affected families – are encouraged to eat less food than necessary in order to keep the babies' weight lower than normal in hopes of avoiding more expensive caesarean deliveries.
According to FAO, Bangladesh has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world.
The UN report also found that, as of 2017, at least 2.5 crore people in Bangladesh are malnourished.
Addressing the seminar on Tuesday as a special guest, Quazi Rowshan Akter, director general of the Department of Women Affairs, said the notion that the male members of a family should get a bigger share of food is still strongly present in a major part of Bangladeshi society.
“This is why women generally have less amount of food than men in a family, and it gets worse in impoverished families where food is inadequate,” she said.
Due to child marriage, girls also get affected by this situation. “Child marriage greatly hampers the nutrition intake of girls,” Rowshan added.
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said the government must ensure nutrition for women and girls in the rural regions.
“The government has implemented a law to protect women and girls, but the social change that is needed today has yet to happen. Our mentality has to change for the current situation to change,” she added.
She further said access to water must be ensured as well.
Food Minister Qamrul Islam, however, said malnutrition among women and girls was on the decline in the country.
“The government has taken many initiatives to protect the right to food for women and girls, and it will be extended further if this government assumes power again. We want to ensure food security from the beginning of production to the food table,” he added.