Country halves hunger status
Bangladesh has halved the prevalence of hunger over the last two decades but because of a large population, the number of people living in hunger still remains high as the country joins other nations celebrating the World Food Day today.
In their joint flagship annual report -- State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) -- three UN bodies have presented statistics that show the percentage of hungry people in the total population of Bangladesh has reduced from 34.6 in 1990 to 16.8 this year.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) released the SOFI-2012 in Rome last week to mark the World Food Day.
Considering 1990 as the base year, halving the prevalence of hunger by 2015 is set as one of the major achievable United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
The SOFI-2012, however, depicted that during the same period (1990-2012), the number of people living in hunger in Bangladesh has reduced from 37 million (1990) to 25 million (2012) this year.
FAO measures hunger as, "The number of people who do not consume the minimum daily energy requirement, which is the amount of calories needed for light activity and a minimum acceptable weight for attained height. On average, a person needs about 1,800 kilo calories per day as a minimum energy intake."
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury termed the development a great achievement. She was, however, prompt in emphasising that the country needs to further reduce population growth rate.
According to SOFI, Bangladesh fared well if compared in the global and regional perspective.
In 1990, the number of global hungry population was one billion, which now stands at 868 million, and the number of people hungry in South Asia was 325 million in the base year, which still remains as high as 304 million.
And prevalence of hunger in terms of percentage of total population is 17.6 in South Asia (in 2012), which is higher than Bangladesh's hunger prevalence of 16.8 percent.
Global hunger prevalence is down to 12.5 percent now compared to 18.6 percent back in 1990, and as per MDG, it has to be brought further down to 9.3 percent by the target year 2015.
Late last week, releasing a global hunger index (GHI), the Washington-based food policy think tank -- International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) -- said Bangladesh goes two steps up in the GHI this year to 68th position from 70th last year.
The GHI report, jointly prepared with two NGOs -- Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe-- shows global hunger has declined since 1990 but still remains at a level characterised as "serious".
Matia Chowdhury said, "Having the MDG goals achieved is not enough. Besides eradicating hunger, we have to make sure people have nutritious food."
She added, "We need talents in the country and to have talented people, we have to upgrade our national nutrition level."
Contacted, Food Minister Abdur Razzaque shared the agriculture minister's views. "We have come a long way in making food available and accessible to people thanks to expanded social safety net programmes. But the challenge remains enormous on how to provide people with proteins -- milk, egg, meat etc. We need to enhance our national nutrition level," said Razzaque.