Imperatives for reducing child stunting in Bangladesh

Tahmeed Ahmed, Muttaquina Hossain, Mustafa Mahfuz, Nuzhat Choudhury and Shamim Ahmed

Although there has been a decline in rates of child stunting in Bangladesh, more than one-third of underfive children still suffer from impaired linear growth. Results of the demographic health surveys since 2004 show that the rate of stunting decreased by only 1.5 percentage points per year (NIPORT, Mitra and Associates & ICF International, 2015). This is not anticipated, given the impressive results the country has demonstrated in reducing infant and maternal mortality over the past two decades (NIPORT, MEASURE Evaluation, and ICDDR,B 2012). Stunting seems to be pervasive throughout the country and is very high in children in slum settlements. Poverty and lack of education are associated with stunting in Bangladesh as elsewhere; however, 21% children from households belonging to the richest wealth quintiles are also stunted. About one-third of children of literate mothers also suffer from stunting. Therefore, the aetiology of stunting is still not clear, although data from Bangladesh suggest that factors associated with the condition include poor maternal nutrition, low birthweight (LBW), severe food insecurity, inappropriate complementary feeding, poverty, illiteracy, poor sanitation, and hygiene practices (Ahmed et al, 2012; Psaki et al., 2014). There is increasing evidence that environmental enteropathy, a condition where the small intestinal mucosa is colonized and damaged by pathogenic bacteria, is one cause of malabsorption of nutrients and stunting. This happens when hygiene and sanitation practices are poor and young children are chronically exposed to bacteria in the environment. …

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