The good news is that several countries in the region,
But overall, .
In this context, it’s critical to confront failures that impede progress toward better health and nutrition in the region. Even more so since some undernutrition challenges persist, and new ones are emerging.
This starts early in a child’s life as breastfeeding rates remain low. Though early initiation of breastfeeding has more than doubled to 40 percent between 2000 and 2016, more than 20 million infants are still not being breastfed within the first hour of birth.
Progress is also uneven across the region: breastfeeding initiation ranges from 18 percent in Pakistan to about 90 percent in Sri Lanka.
Also worrisome is that
Further to that, the diets of infants over six months continue to be one of South Asia’s biggest and most persistent challenges.
It was very early in the morning when the call came. Minoti Chakma was in labor, and her husband knew something was not right.
She had been in pain for a while. The midwife and the family elderlies were trying to help her deliver the baby, a common practice in that remote indigenous community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh.
But nothing seemed to be working, and Minoti’s husband grew worried.
The trainer he met is part of a larger team of twenty-two who raises awareness about nutrition and hygiene among indigenous communities in the Banderban and Rangamati districts.
With support from the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the nutrition trainers visit families in selected villages, gather women and men into groups, and show them instructional videos.
These low-cost . An open discussion usually follows the projection.
That’s why .
But whether an individual consumes—or not—nutritious food is contingent upon a myriad of factors, ranging from the availability of certain foods, how convenient they can be turned into meals, or simply, if they meet consumers’ tastes.
But above all, .
Considered superior for their health and nutrition benefits, these so-called ‘Superfoods’, often considered “new” by the public are now ever-popularized by celebrity chefs and have become all the rage of foodies from San Francisco to Singapore.
We live in a world of paradox, where old world and almost forgotten food like Quinoa (which dates back as a staple food over three thousand years to Andean civilization but largely disappeared with the arrival of the Spanish) is now back on the menu.
Salmon, a staple part of Nordic diets from paleolithic times and woven into the culture of native populations across northwestern Canada and many other superfoods share comparable stories.
And, there are many other old world foods, indigenously known, disappearing but not fully forgotten, yet to be re-discovered.
For example, .
While economies such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan may look strong, just as bellies look full,
And parents, from both rich and poor nations alike, seem to know something is not quite right.
If healthier food choices that are accessible, affordable, and readily available are better known, would parents purchase such food from the market for their families?
With a small grant from the World Bank-administered South Asia Food and Nutrition Initiative (SAFANSI) supported by the EU and the United Kingdom, a partnership with WorldFish was established to test this premise.
A 60 second TV spot, a collaboration between scientists, economists, a private sector digital media company, broadcasters and the Government of Bangladesh, was created and broadcast across the nation on two occasions and watched by over 25 million people.
A parallel radio program was also developed and aired reaching millions more, particularly the rural poor and marginalized communities.
This hidden hunger is especially pervasive among children.
These deficiencies have contributed to high levels of stunting, wasting and underweight children.
Micronutrient availability can make or break a balanced diet
But they can become toxic if consumed in large amounts.
But except for mandatory iodine fortification of salt, India lags in adopting food fortification as a scalable public health intervention.
This is a missed opportunity as
In 2016, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India released standards for the fortification of five staple food items: rice, wheat, salt, oil, and milk. Further to that, regulations are now in place to fortify milk variants such as low fat, skimmed, and whole milk with Vitamin A and D.
But despite its significant health benefits, and while established for more than three decades by companies such as Mother Dairy, a subsidiary of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), milk fortification is not yet common practice across the Indian milk industry.
To fill that gap, NDDB partnered in 2017 with the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the World Bank, and The India Nutrition Initiative, Tata Trusts to explore the possibilities of large-scale milk fortification in India.
Over the last twelve months, this collaboration has enabled ten milk federations, dairy producer companies, and milk unions across the country to pilot milk fortification for their consumers. Fifteen others have initiated the process.
Together with more than 1,500 academics, scientists, and policymakers, we participated last week in the Rice Olympics.
The event—formally known as the International Rice Congress (IRC)—provides a unique window on the latest innovations and policies about the globe’s most important staple crop.
“Rice isn’t just a crop,” said Rajan Garjaria, Executive Vice President for Business Platforms at Corteva Agriscience. “It’s a way of life. A place can be made or broken, based on their rice crop.”
The Congress discussed a breadth of topics, but what stood out the most is that rice can be instrumental in making people healthier and in sustaining the planet.
The South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), a World Bank partnership that aims to improve food and nutrition security across the region, participated in the Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems and Diets and presented its latest research on linkages among food prices, diet quality, and nutrition security.
Overall, the event underscored and discussed relevant strategies to transform nutrition security challenges into opportunities.
افغانستان شپېتم هېواد وو چې تېر کال د خوارځواکۍ د له منځه وړلو د نړیوال خوزښټ سره مل شو. د خلکو لپاره د یوې سوکاله او غوره راتلونکې د برابرولو لپاره دغه هېواد د دغه تصمیم په نیولو سره خپل پیاوړۍ هوډ کې څرګند کړ او دا پانګونه ېې خورا اړینه وبلله.
په لږ عمر کې له ودې څخه پاتې کېدل د ماشومانو د ناکافي تکامل او ودې بېلګه بلل کېږي، چې د هېواد د اقتصادي ودې او پرمختګ لپاره د هغوی د مشارکت ځواک راکموي.
له بلې خوا، هغه ماشوم، چې ښه تغذیه شوی وي، تحصیل او زده کړو ته زیاته لېوالتیا لري، او خپل درس ښه زده کوي، چې دا په خپل وار سره د ځوانۍ په مهال د هغه لپاره د زیات عاید د ترلاسه کولو زمینه برابروي. له همدې کبله دا احتمال، چې دغه شان ماشومان د ودې د پړاونو په بشپړولو او د تغذېې لپاره د وړ شرایطو پوره کولو سره له بېوزلي څخه وژغورل شي، زیاتېدونکی ده.
Last year, Afghanistan became the 60th country to join Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a global movement to end malnutrition, and thus signaled its strong commitment to invest in a better future for its citizens.
—or of low height for their age.
and will reduce their potential to contribute toward their country’s growth and prosperity.
On the other hand, a well-nourished child tends to complete more years of schooling, learns better, and earns higher wages in adulthood, thereby increasing the odds that he or she will escape a life of poverty.
As such, , which in turn can help boost its economic growth, productivity, and human capital development.
To help the Afghan government invest in better nutrition, the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), World Bank and UNICEF have partnered to determine what it would take to reach more children, women, and their families and provide them with essential nutrition services that would ultimately reduce stunting and anemia.
In Sri Lanka, as in the rest of South Asia, improving agricultural production has long been a priority to achieve food security.
But growing more crops has hardly lessened the plight of malnutrition.
And children and the poorest are particularly at risk.
And more than half of the world’s 52 million children identified as wasted—or too thin for their height—live in South Asia.
Moderate-to-severe wasting rates ranged from 2 percent in Bhutan in 2015 to 21 percent in India in 2015–16, with rates above 10 percent for most countries in the region.
And sadly, much remains to be done to ensure children across South Asia can access the nutritious foods they need to live healthy lives.
Bhutan is no ordinary place.
A landlocked Himalayan kingdom tucked in a mostly rugged mountainous terrain between India and China, it measures prosperity by assessing its citizens’ level of happiness by way of a Gross National Happiness index.
Bhutan’s geography – with land rises ranging from 200 meters in the southern foothills to 7,000 meters in the high northern mountains – consists of three major agro-ecological zones that allow for a rich biodiversity and seasonal foods.
This natural wealth, however, comes with its caveats as
"Many families in rural Bhutan practice two meals rather than three meals a day," reports Ms. Kinley Bidha, Tarayana Foundation Field Officer in Samtse Dzongkhag. "Some for cultural reasons, others due to a shortage of food, others due to a shortage of land too farm," she adds.
– the country’s infant mortality rate declined to 30 per 1,000 live births in 2012 down from 90 per 1,000 in 1990; while the rate of stunting in children under 5 years declined 24 percent from 1986 levels.
Nonetheless, the lack of variety of foods in diet remains a key concern, especially for pregnant and nursing women as well as young children. And while most families feed their children complementary food, fewer than a quarter of parents provide them nutritious meals essential to their health.
In addition, 67 percent of Bhutanese adults consume less than the recommended five servings (or 400 grams) of fruits and/or vegetables per person a day [National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2015].
When consumed, vegetables consist for the most part of two national staples, potatoes and chilies, which hardly provide essential vitamins and minerals.
Keeping regional variations in mind, between 16 and 34 percent of children under 5 are stunted—or too short for their age—seven percent of children are underweight, 35 percent of children of age 6-59 months and 44 percent of women of reproductive age are either anemic or iron deficient. Exclusive breastfeeding rates for six-month-old children remain at a low 50 percent (NNS, 2015).
, and predispose to adult-onset diseases (including metabolic syndrome).
Thankfully, to promote its national development.