Adequate zinc consumption is a must to ensure nutrition for all as deficiency of the essential mineral is one of the major barriers to the country's progress in nutrition indicators, said World Food Prize Laureate Dr Howarth Bouis.
Zinc is essential for the function of many enzymes and metabolic processes, and the regular consumption of zinc can reduce different common infant morbidities, like diarrhoea, pneumonia and stunting, he said
The co-winner of the World Food Prize 2016 made the remarks at a seminar titled "Nutrition Governance" organised by Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) of Brac University at a hotel in the capital yesterday.
Citing a recent study, Howarth, in his keynote presentation, said approximately 70 percent people of Bangladesh do not have adequate zinc, thereby suffering from zinc deficiency.
The government needs to put emphasis on the consumption of zinc and other nutrients, he said.
It also needs to promote the crops containing nutrients to improve dietary quality, said Howarth.
The founding director of HarvestPlus -- a biofortified food crop development initiative -- also stressed the need for increasing agricultural production, which can help the country ensure nutrition and keep food prices affordable.
Edouard Beigbeder, the country representative of Unicef Bangladesh, said the period of vulnerability to nutritional deficiencies starts when a child stays in the mother's womb, and it continues until the child becomes two years old, when brain develops significantly.
“If a child is undernourished during this critical window of opportunity, the damage is irreversible and the potential to fully thrive in life will be lost,” he said.
Although the country has made a significant progress in the past decade in reducing chronic malnutrition, one in three children here are stunted which accounts for nearly 5.5 million of them being deprived of their right to survival and development, said Edouard.
Other speakers said coordination among the government and non-government bodies, good governance, and adequate budgetary allocation, particularly on nutrition, are needed to solve the issues.
Acknowledging the limitations of the government, Dr Mashiur Rahman, economic affairs adviser to the prime minister, said all the parties have to find out ways to ensure nutrition for the people.
Dr Sultan Hafeez Rahman, executive director of BIGD; Anuradha Narayan, chief of nutrition section of Unicef Bangladesh; Dr Mahfuza Rifat, head of health, nutrition and population programme at Brac; and lawmaker Farhad Hossain; also spoke.