DHAKA, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- At a national conference on "Maternal and Adolescent Nutrition," the Bangladeshi government has committed to investing additional resources to ensure equitable access to nutrition services for all mothers and adolescent girls across Bangladesh.
The conference was organized Tuesday by the Bangladeshi Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and supported by UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund), to identify actions to accelerate the nutritional care for adolescents and women in Bangladesh, UNICEF said in a statement.
"Fed to Fail," UNICEF's Global Child Nutrition Report 2021 shows that Bangladesh is on track to meet the 2025 World Health Assembly target of a 40-percent decrease in the proportion of stunted children under the age of five, it said.
However, to sustain this progress, it is pertinent to ensure that adolescent girls and mothers have access to adequate nutrition services.
To that end, the Bangladeshi government has pledged to improve the nutritional status of girls and women who are living below the poverty line.
Experts presented evidence that inadequate nutrition can lead to weakened immunity and poor cognitive development of children, and increase the risk during pregnancy and childbirth.
"We are currently developing the 5th Health Population and Nutrition Sector Program which will start from 2024. We will increase investment in strengthening the health system and allocate adequate funding for scaling up ongoing initiatives on nutrition to accomplish the nutrition and health-related commitment made by our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at national and international forums," said Zahid Maleque, Bangladeshi Minister of Health and Family Welfare.
"The economic benefits of investing in better nutrition for mothers and young girls have been extensively documented. Making core investments today will add to the productivity and well-being of future generations for decades to come. In contrast, the physical, emotional and intellectual impairment that comes with poor nutrition can mean a lifetime of suffering and a legacy of poverty for the next generation," said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF representative to Bangladesh.
"Bangladesh has made remarkable progress towards achieving the global health and nutrition goals. To sustain this progress, it is crucial to address shortfalls in maternal and adolescent nutrition services for those most in need," said the representative.
Undernourished girls and women when pregnant face higher risks of giving birth to infants with low birth weight. Approximately 604,000 children are born with low birth weight annually in Bangladesh. Nearly 28 percent of these children fall into an intergenerational cycle of malnutrition and poverty.
UNICEF Bangladesh said it is working closely with the government and collaborating with private sector stakeholders to implement flagship nutrition programs to improve equitable access to maternal and adolescent nutrition services. ■