These days, it seems like most people are aware of the effects of malnutrition. Charities like World Vision and Medecins Sans Frontieres have done a great job in publicising the shocking visual impact of a malnourished child, and as a result many people consider feeding these children a key goal for the charity and medical fields.
Here in Bangladesh, conservative estimates put child malnourishment at around 65% – one of the highest counts in the world. Of that number, 60% are so severely malnourished that they are now stunted and will not recover a normal pattern of growth, even if they were now to undergo an aggressive feeding strategy.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple a question as just making sure that families have enough food. That in itself is too simple an idea. As much as we would all love to ensure that all the villages have self-sustaining food sources, such as rice and potato crops, inclement weather and water contamination often prevent this.
These factors contribute to the malnutrition of entire families. According to data compiled by the US Library of Congress, 45% of rural families and 76% of urban families survive below the acceptable level of caloric intake. This means that malnourished women give birth to malnourished children – tragically setting their babies up for traumatic health experiences for life.
A stunning 40% of Bangladesh’s population is children. With such a high proportion experiencing malnutrition, education attainment is much lower than it is in other developing countries. This will continue to have significant economic impact – without education, employment opportunities are limited, in turn keeping people in the poverty that made them malnourished. It is indeed a vicious cycle, and without serious intervention will be difficult to break.
While we are doing everything we can to educate people on the importance of hygiene and to facilitate food access to the communities we work in, it’s an uphill battle. The total government expenditure on healthcare in Bangladesh is just 3% of the country’s GDP, and for every 10,000 people in the population, there are just 4 hospital beds. It’s simply not a priority in the power structures of this country.
We will continue to update you as regularly as we can on the work we are doing. Thank you for your ongoing support and messages of encouragement – they keep us going!