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‘Nutrition literacy needed to break malnutrition cycle’ PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 02 February 2008

Staff Correspondent

Knowledge of food ingredients and nutrition is very little among many educated people and even doctors in the country, nutrition experts said at a seminar in Dhaka on Thursday.

Children of many educated and affluent families also suffer from malnutrition due to the lack of knowledge, they said.

They were speaking at the seminar on ‘Nutritional status of children in Bangladesh and a thought for alternative sources’ jointly organised by the American Soybean Association-International Marketing, Palli Shishu Foundation Bangladesh and the United States Department of Agriculture at Hotel Rajmoni Isha Khan.

The experts said many families, despite having adequate food, do not know when and how their children should be given food and what types of food they should be given. As a result, they mostly give unbalanced food to their children and feed them forcefully, creating a fear among the children in taking food and ultimately decreasing their appetites, they added.

‘Even many physician mothers do not know how to breastfeed their babies,’ said Professor Ainun Afroze of the paediatric gastroenterology and nutrition of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, who presented a paper on social awareness for nutrition supplementation of children.

Nutrition education is one of the most sustainable drivers of food security and dietary diversification, she said and stressed dissemination of nutrition information in an easier way for all using mass media. ‘In academic curricula, nutrition education has to be given due importance for spreading the nutrition knowledge,’ she said.

In Bangladesh, due to malnutrition, 40 per cent children still born underweight, 46 per cent stunted, 15 per cent wasted and 1.4 per cent children are born overweight, Afroze said in her paper.

Three more papers were also presented in the seminar. Professor Abid Hossain Mollah, head of paediatrics of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, presented a paper on adverse effects on child health due to malnutrition, Professor Sirajul Islam, vice-president of Palli Shishu Foundation Bangladesh, on nutritional status of children, current situation in Bangladesh, and Mohammad Zahurul Haque, technical director of ASA-IM, presented a paper on alternative source of nutrition to combat nutritional deficiencies of children.

They said over 60 per cent mothers and children suffer from malnutrition in the country. ‘The long-term consequences of malnutrition of children are low intellectual development, poor attendance and performance in schools, dropouts, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and so on,’ said Professor Abid Hossain said.

Professor Sirajul Islam said in the wake of price hike of essential commodities and in the aftermath of cyclone Sidr most of the people in the country, particularly in the cyclone-hit areas, are struggling to survive amid malnutrition.

He also stressed immediate steps by the government to ensure nutrition, particularly to the children of poor families. To meet the nutritional demand of children, soybean foods like soymilk and soya protein biscuit can be a cheap alternative in Bangladesh, said Zahurul Haque of ASM-IM.

MA Faiz, director general of Health Services, who attended the seminar as chief guest, said as the countrymen are fond of traditional foods it would be difficult for them to adapt soybean foods as alternative to the traditional foods.

He, however, stressed the need for informing the people of the utilities of soybean foods and thinking the scopes of soybean cultivation in the country. Professor Md Hanif, academic director of Dhaka Shishu Hospital, who attended the seminar as special guest, stressed the need for proper nutrition of mother as a well-nourished mother could give birth to a healthy baby.

Dr AK Azad, executive director of Palli Shishu Foundation Bangladesh, also addressed the seminar.

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