Written by: Abrar Galib Fahad
Recently the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education has decided to stop it’s school-feeding program that has been going on in this country since 1971. These school-feeding programs were not only a good incentive for children to attend schools, it also has also played a key role in reducing stunting in children in our country. Stunting – the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition – once affected more than 50% of our children. Now after decades of government intervention programs like school- feeding, mass immunization and others stunting has been reduced to only 28%. This is an enormous achievement for a country like ours. Instead of investing even more on these crucial social spending programs, the government has made the insane decision to stop funding it at all.
“Everyone puts all their eggs in the equality of opportunity basket. But we’re essentially lying when 25% of children in the world are stunted. Inequality is baked into the brains of 25% of all children before the age of five. So the only way that we can realistically say there is equality of opportunity is if we bring stunting down to zero.” says Jim Yong Kim, the former President of World Bank. Kim was also a physician and public health legend. He founded the organization Partners in Health which revolutionized the way healthcare is provided to the world’s poor. He also waged a war against stunting. When he was at World Bank, he vowed to shame countries at the world stage if they couldn’t deliver on their promise of reducing the percentage of malnourished children.
Getting rid of stunting is very crucial for our fight against poverty. This is the reason why Kim spent so much effort to eradicate it. “This is probably the root of intergenerational poverty,” said Kim. “Stunted women who are malnourished become pregnant. Just because they were stunted and malnourished doesn’t mean that their children have to be, but they probably end up not having sufficient nutrition when they are pregnant and they give birth and their children are stunted and it just goes on.”
Stunting was and still continue to be a big problem for Bangladesh. There was a time when more than half of the children of this country were stunted. But in recent times we have made really good progress in this area. And providing meals to children was a big reason for this progress. Programs like Midday meals or cash transfers to the parents can have a huge impact on stunting and poverty. India also have a huge stunting problem. To deal with that India has developed the largest midday school meal program in the world and a recent study from there has shown that girls who get midday meals are less likely to give birth to malnourished children. The impact such social spending can have is intergenerational and long term.
Undernutrition is the principle cause of stunting. Children can be born to a malnourished mother, so they have not grown properly in the womb, or they can have too little nutrition in the first years of their life. All of this can lead to poor cognitive development. There’s really no point in spending extra on education if a significant portion of children’s brain are underdeveloped. It doesn’t mean they are doomed for life. But it makes them unable to learn and unlikely to escape poverty.
Technological progress is rapidly changing the job sector. Soon we will have fewer and fewer low-skill jobs and more high-skill jobs that require digital competence. If we don’t invest to get rid of stunting, we are essentially giving up on 28% of our future citizen.
The Bangladesh government has been investing a lot on infrastructure. Investing in the gray matter of our future generation is the best kind of investment our government can make now. It will pay for itself in the future while making the country healthier and brighter. The government should immediately reverse It’s decision and give proper funding to school-feeding programs.
1.The newslink –
- Jim Yong Kim on Stunting –
- Study on India’s midday meal program –