| Update:
Dec. 03, 2021, 2:24 p.m.

Despite a significant improvement in the management of the situation of child undernutrition over the past fifteen years, socio-economic inequalities have long been widening in the country, according to a study.

The improvement in child undernutrition indicates an increase in household income. But inequalities remain significant among families in terms of geographic location and among marginalized communities, the study showed.

He also added that besides increasing income, the level of education of mothers can play a key role in eliminating malnutrition in children.

The results were revealed in Session 7 on day two of the 2021 three-day BIDS Annual Development Conference (ABCD) at a hotel in the Gulshan area on Thursday.

Former Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Dr Atiur Rahman chaired the session, during which the results of three studies were presented.

The studies were: “Trends and Inequalities in Childhood Undernutrition in Bangladesh: A Household Level Analysis (2004-2018)” by Abdur Razzaque Sarker; “Spatial and Social Dimensions of Poverty: A Multidimensional Approach” by SM Zulfiqar Ali; and “Adolescent motherhood in Bangladesh: trends and determinants” by Mohammad Mainul Islam.

In the first presentation, Mr Sarkar said that during the period 2004 to 2018, the prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight in children decreased by 39% respectively, 43 % and 49%.

“We have observed that childhood illnesses, maternal education, mothers’ BMI (body mass index), sanitation facilities and wealth status are the main areas of inequality in the country.”

It recommended prioritizing nutrition-specific interventions such as micronutrient supplementation and improving food and nutritional intake during pregnancy for low-income households to reduce child malnutrition.

In a separate presentation on the issue of teenage motherhood in the country, Mr. Mainul said that the high rate of child marriage, in most cases, leads to teenage motherhood, which has declined in the country – but at a slower pace.

In addition, the increased dropout rate of girls during the coronavirus pandemic has left them vulnerable to early marriage, which can at the same time push them into teenage motherhood.

Calling lower education level one of the key conditions for child marriage and early motherhood, he added that national and regional policy interventions are needed to reduce teenage motherhood by empowering women by creating income opportunities and providing education.

Commenting on the studies, Dr Atiur said that only the data does not tell the truth, a qualitative analysis of these numbers is also required.

He suggested that the researchers accumulate and analyze the data in a way that helps people understand the real scenario.

Meanwhile, the findings of three other studies were presented in session 6 on “Human Capital and Public Policy”.

Former BB governor Mohammed Farashuddin chaired the session, moderated by East West University economics professor AK Enamul Haque.

The studies were as follows: “Student Performance in Online Education in Bangladesh” by Nazmul Hoque, Syed Basher and AK Enamul Haque; “Global Value Chains and the Public Policy Dilemma in the Covid Era: Evidence from Bangladesh” by Abeer Khandker; and “Impact of Floods on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from Bangladesh Using Satellite and Census Data” by Mohammad Mainul Hoque and Kazi Iqbal.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Farashuddin said online education is new to everyone – students and teachers – as none are prepared.

To make online learning interesting, teachers should focus on developing innovative teaching, questioning and assessment procedures, he said.

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