Stunting affected growth of more than 30% or 4.3 million children under the age of five in Bangladesh last year, according to the latest estimate of child malnutrition.
Although the number of stunted children has been declining from 9.1 million in 2000 accounting for 56% of the children at the time, the prevalence rate is still very high.
A child suffers from stunting when he is shorter than his peers mainly due to prolonged malnutrition. He may also be burdened with a weak immune system and poor brain functioning.
Over the last two decades, overweight has emerged to be another major issue of concern as the children affected by it increased 2.5 times, as per the 2021 edition of the Unicef, WHO and the World Bank's Joint Malnutrition Estimates (JME) report released on 4 April.
In 2020, an estimated 2.1% or 0.30 million children in the country were overweight, meaning they were heavier than what is considered normal for their height, while it was just 0.7% or 0.11 million in 2000.
Globally, there were 38.9 million children who were overweight in 2020, an increase of nearly 6 million since 2000.
On the other hand, the number of stunted children declined significantly during the time from 203.6 million to 149.2 million.
The global lenders said the estimates had excluded impacts of Covid-19.
The pandemic is expected to exacerbate all forms of malnutrition due to worsening household income, especially in the vulnerable population, inaccessibility of nutritious food, disruptions in essential nutrition services, and reduced physical activity.
Bangladesh's progress in attaining SDG 2.2
Sustainable Development Goal 2 is to achieve "zero hunger" by 2030. Target 2.2 specifically focuses on ending malnutrition among children under 5. This 2.2 subsection has 3 indicators used to monitor stunting, wasting and overweight.
The 2025 target includes lowering the number of children, who are stunted, by 40% while the 2030 target is to reduce it by 50%.
The baseline year is 2012 for measuring the improvements. About 5.7 million children under 5 had the debilitating physical condition that year. That means the number decreased by 24.6% by 2020.
Bangladesh has to fast track improvement on malnourishment to reach the 2025 and 2030 goals tied to stunting.
However, it is "on track" to achieve the "overweight" sub-goal. The 2025 target is to maintain the childhood overweight prevalence at less than 3%.
Overweight children under 5 accounted for 1.5% in 2012.
More than half of all children affected by wasting live in South Asia.
In 2020, 45.4 million children were affected by wasting globally, meaning they were too thin for their height due to poor intake of nutrients, of which 25 million live in South Asia and 11 million in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The latest data showed that about 9.8% or 1.42 million children were affected by wasting in Bangladesh in 2019.