Maternal nutrition for all still a far cry

20 September 2021


Al Amin :
Maternal nutrition is still far cry as thousands of pregnant and lactating mothers are still deprived of balanced and healthy food in the country.
Lack of sufficient work opportunity, child marriage, lack of access to education and nutritious foods are the main reasons behind malnutrition, especially in the rural areas, experts said.
Economic diversification in the remote area is needed to improve the poor nutrition situation, they opined.
According to UNICEF's study, adolescent girls in Bangladesh exhibit high-levels of micronutrient deficiencies and on an average half of all women are affected by anaemia, which is the inadequacy of healthy red blood cells for carrying oxygen.
"Nutrition deficiency among the pregnant women is a common scenario in the rural areas of the country due to the lack of food awareness and inability to buy balanced food," Dr Sharmin Rumi Alim, Professor of the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science of Dhaka University, told The New Nation.
"Opportunity to involve in economic activity for women and mass awareness programme on balanced food can play important roles to reduce malnutrition," she added.    Visiting two upazilas of Kurigram district, this correspondent found that around 70 per cent pregnant women in the region are facing health-related hazardous due to the lack of nutritious food.
Monzila Begum (33), a seven-month-pregnant woman, was suffering from various diseases like jaundice, low blood pressure, weakness and anaemia due to the malnutrition, according to her health report.
The report also said the growth of the fetus was like less than five months.
"My husband is a farmer and the only earner of income of my family. We are mostly dependent on one crop (Paddy). Excessive river bank erosion and flood have affected them. All of our farmlands went under water this rainy season. As a result, food grain production has become a dream for us," Monzila, hails from Boithakpur village in Ulipur upazila, told this correspondent.
Rasheda Begum, a community health worker in the area, said that like Monzila, hundreds of pregnant women are facing inadequate supply of food in the area.
Due to the financial hardship, they cannot consult doctors during their pregnancy, she added.
"Mozila has developed jaundice due to inadequate food consumption during pregnancy. Even her baby in her womb is not growing well. Her fetus is underweight," she added.
The nutrition situation is improving slowly as the government in association with local and global NGOs have taken a number of programmes in the Upazila, said Jahanara Begum, a programme assistant of the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry.
Under the project titled 'Income Support Program for the Poorest', a total of 1,351 poor mothers and pregnant women receive Tk 3,600 to 4,200 once every three months during regular check-up at community clinic in Dhoronibari union, she said.
Shaymol Chandra Sarker, Deputy Director of the Mahideb Jubo Somaj Kallayan Samity (MJSKS), said over 12 NGOs and government agencies are working here to make the people aware about the nutritious food.   
"People do not go hungry but they do not take balanced food. Financial hardship and lack of health awareness are the major reasons behind this situation," he added.
Dr Md Habibur Rahman, Civil surgeon of Kurigram district, said, "Nutrition deficiency is a common phenomenon as the people of the district are dependent on one crop."
"There are 290 community clinics in district. We are working to raise the number of clinics and strengthen efforts to provide nutritious food and other support to pregnant mothers in collaboration with development partners including UN agencies," he said.

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