Hunger halved in Bangladesh and the Maldives ahead of 2015
Bangladesh and the Maldives are set to get UN recognition as one of the first countries that achieved the most fundamental millennium development goal (MDG) — halving the incidence of hunger — well ahead of the target year 2015.
To celebrate this feat, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva has invited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to receive a “Diploma Award”. The proportion of population below poverty line dropped from over 58 percent in 1990 (the MDG base year) to 31.50 percent in 2010. And on June 12, FAO declared that Bangladesh succeeded in halving hunger, in other words, the proportion of population below poverty line has further dropped to around 29 percent. Food Minister Mohammad Abdur Razzaque told The Daily Star yesterday that on behalf of the prime minister he is going to Italy to receive the award at the UN body’s headquarters in Rome on June 16. “In the invitation, FAO said it would bestow us with the honour as recognition to Bangladesh’s outstanding achievement in fighting hunger,” the food minister said quoting from the FAO DG’s invitation letter. In a press release issued from Rome on June 12, FAO declared that 38 countries have met internationally-established targets in the fight against hunger, achieving successes ahead of the deadline set for 2015. “These countries are leading the way to a better future. They are proof that with strong political will, coordination and cooperation, it is possible to achieve rapid and lasting reductions in hunger,” said the FAO director general. Bangladesh is among the 20 countries which have satisfied Millennium Development Goal No. 1 (known as MDG-1), to halve the proportion of hungry people. Their progress was measured between 1990-92 and 2010-2012, against benchmarks established by the international community at the UN General Assembly in 2000. From South Asia, the Maldives is the only other country that will share the laurel alongside Bangladesh for achieving MDG- ahead of schedule. Eighteen other countries were congratulated for reaching both MDG-1 and the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) goal, having reduced by half the absolute number of undernourished people between 1990-92 and 2010-2012. The countries achieving MDG-1 alone are Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Malawi, the Maldives, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Togo and Uruguay. The countries achieving both MDG-1 and the WFS are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Djibouti, Georgia, Ghana, Guyana, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, and Viet Nam. The success in MDG-1 apart, Bangladesh also made significant strides in achieving the other UN-set MDG targets and is on track to achieve most of those, according to the government’s and UN agencies’ reckonings. Bangladesh is among the 16 countries which had earlier received UN recognition for being on track to achieve MDG- 4 by significantly reducing prevalence of child mortality. In attaining MDG-2 (that is achieving universal primary education), Bangladesh already achieved 95 percent in terms of primary school enrolment back in 2011. As far as MDG-3 (promoting gender equality and empowering women) is concerned, Bangladesh also achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education, and remains on track with respect to percentage of women employed in agriculture sector. On MDG-5 (improving maternal health), a UN agency report in 2011 highlighted that by scaling down maternal mortality rate at 194 per lakh, Bangladesh showed a major turnaround, and was steadily moving ahead to achieve the goal by 2015. Dr Quazi Shahbuddin, professorial fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, has attributed the country’s early achievement of MDG-1 to its sustained growth over the last one decade. Contacted, Shahbuddin, also a former director general of the premier think-tank, said that the sustained six percent GDP growth, expansion of social safety net and pro-poor development policies helped achieve the feat. He noted that had there been more political stability and improved governance, the country could even achieve more growth with the same level of investments.