Absence of holistic campaign hampers national nutrition
While Bangladesh has made noteworthy strides in the attainment of self-sufficiency in the production of rice, the intractable issue of malnourishment still looms over the nation’s overall nutrition picture. Indeed, one can hardly over-emphasise the significance of a proper diet for the balanced growth of children. A New Age report published on Saturday, on the overall scenario of nutrition in the country, reveals a disheartening picture, where most mothers are not aware that in order to ensure safe feeding, maintenance of hygiene is a precondition. Experts have voiced profound concern at recent findings which also show that children below the age of two are seldom given the right amount of supplementary food after they pass six months of age. The discovery may be disturbing but it lays bare absence of a comprehensive nutrition plan, which has led inexorably to ignorant parents.
Reportedly, most mothers do not clean their hands while preparing food for children and before feeding. The finger has been pointed at the absence of a counselling programme or to be more precise, a cohesive strategy, not undermined by bureaucracy or petty inter-departmental rivalry. Not surprisingly, like many other areas in Bangladesh, nutrition also suffers because of a tug of war over jurisdiction between the ministries of health and local government. It’s frustrating that when there is a National Nutrition Programme in existence, covering 15 million people in 173 upazilas, the results can be so dismal. Bureaucratic egotism aside, inability to chalk out a year by year specific goal attainment programme may be the chief reason though we are compelled to ask what the plethora of international development agencies are doing in their field level work relating to the health sector. It appears that in post-independence Bangladesh, the rate of social improvement in the form of ‘much heralded’ support from foreign friends has not made any momentous change.
Yet, from time to time the norm for the government has been to side with such agencies to harp on the positive transformations that have swept the nation. It stands to reason that, if this was true, lack of nutrition would not be a talking point today. Experts have underscored the need for a nationwide campaign carried out by health advisers working at the root level though no definitive suggestion was made as to how such a mass operation could be carried out. Government health officers in the rural areas are of course the first persons entrusted with the task though high efficiency can be ensured if these officials are linked with nutrition projects run by international NGO’s. Practically speaking, the incentive to supplement their income through a special wage system from the development partners can work wonders. Everything said and done, the first priority is to have a clear plan of action and not a fragmented, red tape riddled approach that ultimately muddies the water while nursing the nutrition crisis instead of rectifying it.
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