It is unfortunate that Bangladesh has gone two notches down in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) this year, ranking 88th among the 117 countries, whereas last year, the country ranked 86th out of the 119 countries. We should identify the reasons and address them with urgency. Although Bangladesh has done better than India and Pakistan in fighting hunger, there is no place for complacency. A slide in the GHI is in stark contrast to the rate of our GDP growth.
Globally, the level of hunger and undernourishment in a country is calculated based on four indicators–undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality. Although we have made good progress in reducing the rate of child stunting associated with undernourishment, we still have a long way to go when it comes to reducing the child mortality rate. A 2015 study found that the rate of child stunting has reduced in the country from 58.5 percent in 1997 to 40.2 percent in 2011 because of the rising household wealth associated with pro-poor economic growth and gains in parental education, as well as health, sanitation, and demographic factors reflecting decreased fertility rates. However, the percentage of children under five with stunted growth is still quite high.
According to World Food Programme, 40 million people in Bangladesh remain food insecure, while 11 million suffer from acute hunger. Since poverty and hunger are closely related, Bangladesh needs to put all-out efforts to alleviate poverty. For that, the government should undertake specific programmes under the social safety net schemes. Although over the last few decades, our food production has increased keeping pace with our increased population, our goal should be to become self-sufficient in food production and achieve the global goal of zero hunger by 2030. Along with increasing food production, ensuring access to nutritious food especially by the most vulnerable groups, should be a major priority for the government.