Speakers at discussion on Sunday underscored the need for enacting the Right to Food Act immediately in order to ensure adequate food and nutrition for the poor, in particular.
“Promulgating the Right to Food Act is the need of the hour,” said Mohsin Ali, general secretary of the Right to Food Movement.
“If the law is formulated, the scope for accountability will be widened,” he added.
Echoing the sentiment, Arshad Hossain Siddiqui, lobby and advocacy expert for the South and Central Asia Region at ICCO Cooperation, a global non-government organisation, said, “The Constitution has guaranteed the right to food for everybody. Now it should be established legally.”
They were addressing a dialogue styled “Need to Enact a Food Right Act and the Role of the Media” at the conference room of the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) in the capital. ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam moderated the discussion.
In association with the Christian Aid and the ICCO Cooperation, the Right to Food Bangladesh and the ERF jointly organised the programme.
In Bangladesh, the poverty rate is 21.8 percent and the extreme poverty rate is 11.13 percent, said Mohsin Ali, citing the planning commission data. About 2.5 crore people are suffering from malnutrition, he said.
Mohsin, also executive director of the Wave Foundation, said that the access to adequate food is seen as a right. The United Nations also declared it as one of human rights.
Besides, the first two Sustainable Development Goals address poverty and hunger, he said, while adding: When you make it a right, it does not remain as a matter of giving alms, rather it becomes an entitlement.
Mohsin said that Bangladesh has made impressive strides in economic and social sectors.
“Nobody now dies from hunger. But there is slow death and early death for not having access to required amount of nutritious food year after year, a thing which is not visible,” he added further.
There is also mis-targeting in the social safety net programmes, and this should be addressed, Mohsin added.
He urged the government to take measures to provide skill-based trainings, funds and employment opportunities to the people belonging to the extreme poverty group, so that they can make their lives better.
Siddiqui of ICCO Cooperation said, as Bangladesh is marching towards becoming a middle-income country, the right to food should be legally established.
About two crore people either go to bed unfed or don’t have adequate amount of food, he said, adding that Bangladesh’s graduation to a middle income country will not be meaningful, if we can’t improve the condition of this group of people.
Ziaur Rahman, editor of the ArthoSuchak, an online news portal, said that the ‘right to food’ has become even more important following recent revelation about the type of substandard food people have been consuming.
“It is true that people in Bangladesh do not die from hunger. But at the same time, the country has not progressed much when it comes to safe food,” he added.