Bangladesh’s high poverty and undernutrition rates are exacerbated by frequent natural disasters and high population density. In 2010, the percentage of Bangladeshis living beneath the poverty line dropped to 31.5 percent, down from 40 percent in 2005 (WFP 2012). However, more than 17 percent of the population (160 million) is still extremely poor and high levels of inequality have persisted over the same period. More than 40 million Bangladeshis are undernourished by FAO’s definition – not having access to adequate amounts of safe, nutritious food to sustain a healthy and productive life (FAO 2012). Bangladesh is ranked 129th out of 169 countries in the 2010 Human development Index (HDI), and 68th in a list of 79 countries in the 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI).

Significant gender disparities persist in health, education, and income in Bangladesh. In addition, the prevalence of acute and chronic malnutrition among children under 2 remain alarming. Achieving gender equality also remains a challenge, as significant disparities persist in health, education and income. Stunting affects an estimated 48.6 percent of the country’s 20 million children, with nearly half of children under 5 (7.8 million) experiencing stunting (Household Food Security and Nutrition Assessment 2010). An estimated 18 percent of the country’s adult women are also acutely malnourished.

Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and climate change-related disasters, such as cyclones and floods, lean season crises, and drought, are likely to continue to undermine poverty reduction efforts. The Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy continues to address these challenges through the National Food Policy (2006) and Plan of Action (2008-
2015). These programs focus on the following goals: Adequate and stable supply of safe and nutritious food and increased purchasing power and access to food of the people; and adequate nutrition for all individuals, especially women and children. These goals will be achieved through intensifying investment in agricultural research and extension activities and crop and livestock diversification; strengthening rural access to markets and women’s access to productive assets; and expanding social safety net programs.

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