Social Protection and Child Malnutrition in Bangladesh: Impressive achievements - but stunting remains a challenge

Bangladesh has an impressive record in reducing poverty and child mortality. The number of people living below the poverty line went down by 40% in the ten years to 2010. And the rate of neonatal and infant mortality has shown a continuous decline, with Bangladesh on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 by 2015. In 1990, the MDG baseline year, the proportion of underweight children was 71%. According to the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey, underweight among children under five has gone down from 41% in 2007 to 36% in 2011, and breastfeeding has gone up from 46% to 64%. This is all good news and a great achievement.

However, although the percentage of children who are stunted has fallen from 68% in 1990, the same survey reveals the figure has dropped by just two percentage points over the past five years, from 43% to 41%. One in four families is food insecure, with 40% of people in rural areas unable to afford a minimum-cost nutritious diet. Long-term malnutrition remains an ongoing problem, affecting the development of millions of children.

Despite a number of social protection and safety net programmes, the country has lacked a coordinated national strategy on social protection, and few programmes are directed specifically at children. The current Health, Population and Nutrition Sector Programme should prioritise reducing stunting. This briefing provides a number of guidelines on how social protection programmes can improve children’s nutrition.

Published 2018-09-03

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