Introducing Civil Society Alliance for Scaling Up Nutrition, Bangladesh
Malnutrition has persisted as a global public health concern in recent years. In a collective effort to push nutrition into the forefront of the public health agenda the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a Global Movement, led by the UN Secretary General and supported by UN agencies, governments, donors, civil societies and private sector stakeholders has been formed. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, has highlighted the importance of nutrition and the critical work of the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ (SUN) Movement to address malnutrition and hunger across the globe. Despite progress in most MDG indicators, Bangladesh is considered as one of the 36 high burden countries for malnutrition. Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS) shows that 41% children are stunted and 45,000 to 100,000 children are dying from chronic malnutrition every year although our exclusive breastfeeding rate has improved more than 60% but quality complementary feeding is still at 21%. Our Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the Founding Chair of BRAC, have been nominated as the Lead Group members of Global SUN Movement. Aligned with the Global SUN Movement and the commitments made by the country representatives, Bangladesh has formed the Civil Society Alliance for Scaling Up Nutrition in Bangladesh (CSA for SUN, BD). The alliance is composed of representatives from civil society networks across Bangladesh to work under the leadership of the government, to advocate for the further development of the national nutrition agenda and ultimately improve the lives of malnourished people across this country.
The CSA for SUN, BD was formally launched on October 31, 2012 at BRAC Center Auditorium Dhaka, Bangladesh. The launching ceremony was attended by high level government officials, UN organizations, civil society organizations, academia, media and others. Md. Humayun Kabir, Honourable Senior Secretary of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was the Chief Guest in the Inauguration Ceremony while the event was chaired by Dr. Pascal Villeneuve, Country Representative of UNICEF, Bangladesh. Among others, Md. Shafiqul Islam Laskar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare & SUN, Bangladesh Country Focal Person, A K.M Amir Hossain, Director General, Directorate General of Family Planning, Dr. Ekhlasur Rahman, Director IPHN and Line Director National Nutrition Service and Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC were present on the occasion. Along with high level officials from GOB, UNICEF and BRAC, 165 total participants -executive members & general of CSA for SUN, BD, UN, developments partners, INGO, national NGOs, grassroots level NGOs and media representatives attended this introductory meeting.
Dr. Rukhsana Haider, Chair of the CSA for SUN, BD, in her welcome speech, gave background on Civil Society for the SUN Movement in Bangladesh, and stressed the need for coordinated efforts to scale up nutrition interventions across the country. In her speech, Dr. Sultana Khanum, the focal person of the Global SUN CSO Taskforce, highlighted the commitments of global partners in SUN Movement explaining also the significant role of the CSA for SUN, BD to challenge the faces of malnutrition.
Prof. Dr. Ekhlasur Rahman, elaborated the Global SUN Movement and shared his recent experience in attending SUN meetings in United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) highlighting the scope of the challenges that lie ahead. A.K.M. Amir Hossain spoke on the role the family planning directorate can play in a multi-sectoral approach to reduce malnutrition and strongly emphasized on adopting the 1000 days approach in Bangladesh.
Md. Shafiqul Islam Laskar, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Country Focal Person of SUN, Bangladesh focused on long term consequences of malnutrition further highlighting the significance of a multisectoral approach and the role of the government in investing in mitigating malnutrition by 2015. Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director shared examples from BRAC including Alive & Thrive in improving IYCF practices and LANSA for improving agriculture and nutrition. He argued that Bangladesh’s progress towards self reliance in parameters of agricultural growth and food security is not completely translated in nutritional indicators.
The Senior Secretary formally inaugurated the launching of CSA for SUN, BD. In his speech, he pushed strongly for the 1000 days approach while stating, “Under-nutrition remains as a silent emergency, which may erupt as a volcano any day. We as the government and citizens and responsible partners in Bangladesh must not allow this to happen.” Indicating the gloomy picture of under-nutrition situation across the life-cycle, he reaffirmed his ministry’s stand towards mainstreaming nutrition programmes and supporting the existing and future nutritional interventions. He also stressed the need of the concerted effort of the 13 ministries, UN bodies, civil societies, private sectors and community people to uplift the nutritional status of women and children in Bangladesh.
Expressing optimism on the effective collaboration of different cross functional bodies, Dr. Pascal Villeneuve, UNICEF Representative, expanded his discussion to transmitting the Global SUN’s objective to the national level. Pointing out to success stories of Brazil and Peru, he said that Bangladesh could draw on lessons of those initiatives and Civil Society should advocate for people-centered approaches, demand for nutrition to be included at the national policy level and also promote and implement nutrition interventions for mothers and children.
Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Secretary of CSA for SUN, BD and Director Health, BRAC concluded the meeting with a vote of thanks and reiterated Sir Fazle Hasan Abed’s incessant struggle against poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, illiteracy and ill-health, and constant dedication towards improved futures for mothers and their children. The launching ceremony ended with promises and commitment to act on a coordinated multisectoral approach to boost up the scaling up nutrition activities and programmes in the country.