5.2cr people food insecure in Bangladesh
The number of people without food security in Bangladesh increased 2.4 percent to 5.2 crore between 2018 and 2020, found a recent study by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation -- as the pandemic worsened access to food.
As much as 31.9 percent of the population in Bangladesh experienced moderate to severe food security, according to the report styled 'Asia and the Pacific – Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021'.
This is lower than the Southern Asia -- which is the grouping for Bangladesh -- average of 43.8 percent.
People face moderate food insecurity when they are uncertain of their ability to obtain food and have been forced to reduce, at times over the year, the quality and/or quantity of food they consume due to lack of money or other resources.
Severe food insecurity means that individuals have likely run out of food, experienced hunger and, at the most extreme, have gone for days without eating, putting their health and well-being at serious risk.
In the preceding two years, the number of people facing moderate or severe food insecurity in Bangladesh stood at 5.08 crore, which is 31.5 percent of the population.
While the FAO has not pinned the increase on the pandemic, it says the global public health crisis, which engulfed Bangladesh as much as any other country in the region, has had a serious impact.
There are mainly two reasons behind the increase in food insecurity, Mahbubul Mokaddem, chairman of Dhaka University's economics department, told The Daily Star.
"If the production of food decreases, food insecurity increases. If the price of food increases, people's capacity to purchase food decreases. We have to look into what could be the reasons for the increase."
Besides, Bangladesh suffers from another phenomenon, he said.
"The gap between the rich and poor is increasing day by day. It could be another reason for the rising food insecurity," Akash added.
Just 1 percent of Bangladesh's population holds 16.3 percent of the total national income in 2021 and the bottom half 17.1 percent, according to a recent report by a Paris-based research organisation -- making it a quintessence of a poor and unequal country.
Bangladesh is one of the seven countries in the Asia Pacific region where the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity is above 30 percent, said the report, which was released on Wednesday.
The other countries are Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iran, Kiribati, Nepal and the Philippines.
In Bangladesh, the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity steadily declined from 2014. In 2020, about 1.7 crore faced severe food insecurity -- which is about 10 percent of the population -- down from about 2.07 crore in 2014.
The prevalence of severe food insecurity in the Asia-Pacific region was 10.3 percent in 2020, with the highest being in Southern Asia (19.9 percent).
Bangladesh has made a good improvement in bringing down the prevalence of undernourishment: in 2020, 9.7 percent of the population remains undernourished -- which is closer to the Asia-Pacific average of 7.9 percent -- down from 15.2 percent in 2011.
In 2020, 14.1 percent of the population in Southern Asia were undernourished.
The number of undernourished people in Bangladesh stood at 1.59 crore at the end of last year, down from 2 crore in 2018.
The report also looked at the number of undernourished people, stunting among children under five in the Asia Pacific Region.
Bangladesh is one of the 10 countries in Asia and the Pacific with a "very high prevalence" of stunting according to the World Health Organisation criteria.
About 30.2 percent of the children under the age of five in Bangladesh experience stunting, which is low height for age and is the outcome of chronic malnutrition.
While the prevalence has come down substantially since 2000 -- when 56 perecnt of the children were stunted -- it is still too high, the report said.
The other countries with a very high prevalence of stunting are Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Laos, the Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.
Nearly 23 percent of the children in the Asia and the Pacific region are still stunted, the report said.