The other Asian enigma: Explaining the rapid reduction of undernutrition in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has managed to sustain a surprisingly rapid reduction in the rate of child undernutrition for at least two decades. The two largest drivers of change that have prompted this unheralded success are large gains in parental education (26%) and rapid asset accumulation (25%). Other drivers are improved access to antenatal and neonatal health services, large improvements in access to toilets, and demographic change in the form of reduced fertility rates and longer birth intervals. While these initiatives were not overtly coordinated with nutritional change in mind, Bangladesh’s progress is clearly the result of pro-poor multisectoral policies that have successfully addressed many – but not all – of the multiple constraints on child growth. Further reductions in child undernutrition will require sustained income growth, further expansion of education, and significant improvements in access to, and quality of, health and nutrition services.

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South Asia Focus

Funded by UK DFID

This research has been funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policies



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