Bangladesh Food Policy Review: Adjusting to the Green revolution (Vol 1 Main report)

Working Paper
[WB report No. 9641 BD]

Few countries approach food security with as much of a sense of urgency as Bangladesh. The country has an average per capita income of less than US$ 200, a population density of nearly 800 inhabitants per square kilometer, and a history of periodic flood, famine and drought. In recent years, with modest income growth and rapid urbanization, Bangladeshis have begun to diversify their diet away from foodgrains, and devote a larg~r share of their household budget to non-food items. Nonetheless, the average ho~sehold still spends 60 percent of its budget on food, and foodgrains still supply 80 percent of caloric and 60 percent of protein intake. The poorest decile of the population spends 75 to 80 percent of its income on food, which consists almost exclusively of basic foodgrains. This group--the ultra poor--are likely to be at severe nutritional risk, while many more households--the majority, in fact--face hunger, deprivation and seasonal food insecurity. Anthropometric data indicate that two-thirds of Bangladeshi children sampled are chronically undernourished, as evidenced by widespread stunting, while 10 to 20 percent are acutely malnourished and at severe nutritional risk. Cultural attitudes and customs dictate that women eat least, and that sons are favored over daughters in terms of food quality, child care and health care. Women have low body weights by international standards, gain very little weight in pregnancy, and lose weight with each successive pregnancy in a cycle referred to as maternal depletion syndrome. The low health status of women impacts heavily on their children. One out of six pregnancies ends in foetal death, and 25 to 50 percent of babies are born at low birthweights, substantially increasing the risk of infant mortality. One out of eight babies dies before his/her first birthday, generally as a result of the nexus between malnutrition and infectious disease. Breaking this cycle of malnutrition and disease should be the primary goal of food policy.

Date and language
Feb 1992

Corporate Author

Agris Subject Categories: 
Food policy
Physical Location: 
FPMU Documentation Center
Classification Number: 
Other information
Printed resource

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