“Forty-one … I hate the number 41. It’s a horrible number…it’s the worst number of all in Bangladesh. I wish it would go away and never come back. This number should be zero … zero Bangladeshi children need be stunted due to poor nutrition,” the envoy said.
He stressed building nutrition awareness among parents to reduce the high rate of under-five stunting in the country.
The US envoy was addressing the inaugural airing of public health episodes – Jiboner Golpo, a partnership programme among USAID, Voice of America and Desh TV. A component of a three-year health programme with a US$ 2,00,000 assistance from USAID, ‘Jiboner Golpo’ will be aired by Desh TV every alternating Saturday at 8:00pm from June 29.
Noting that Bangladesh is on the verge of achieving food self-sufficiency, he noted that it will not be the deficiency of food, but the deficiency of knowledge among the population about the ways to prepare a proper nutritious diet to their children.
“Although the most densely populated country in the world, Bangladesh is already rice self-sufficient and within a decade should be food self-sufficient. Imagine that … this country once labeled an international basket case … is now nearly food self-sufficient,” he said.
“So, if this country is so richly blessed, then why are 4 percent of the children stunted in their physical and mental development?” he added.
The US ambassador explained that lack of knowledge and understanding of how to provide children a balanced diet with proper nutrition combined with poverty add up to 41 percent of Bangladeshi children suffering from poor nutrition.
“I am pleased that Bangladesh is making good, steady progress in fighting poverty … but that is only half of the battle … in some ways that is the easy part,” he said.
“Much more challenging will be changing eating habits, nutrition habits … these food habits, this fixation with eating mountains of rice and little else, these traditions are millennia old and are deeply ingrained…”, he continued.
Mozena announced a three-year $200,000 USAID-funded programme to expand the use of communication and information programmes to improve health in Bangladesh.
A key component of this programme is a series of biweekly television episodes on public health issues called Jiboner Golpo (‘Life Stories’) which will be aired on Desh TV starting from June 29, every alternate Saturday from 8:00pm.