Bangladesh has managed to sustain a surprisingly rapid reduction in the rate of child undernutrition for at least two decades. We investigate this unheralded success through a statistical analysis of changes in child growth outcomes across five rounds of DHS surveys from 1997 to 2011. Rapid asset accumulation and large gains in parental education are the two largest drivers of change. Other drivers are improved access to antenatal and neonatal health services, large improvements in access to toilets, and demographic change in the form of reduced fertility rates and longer birth intervals. While these initiatives were not overtly coordinated with nutritional change in mind, Bangladesh’s progress is clearly the result of pro-poor multisectoral policies that have successfully addressed many – but not all – of the multiple constraints on child growth. Further reductions in child undernutrition will require sustained income growth, further expansion of education, and significant improvements in access to, and quality of, health and nutrition services.
This briefing is based on IFPRI Discussion Paper 01358.
Headey, D. The other Asian enigma: Explaining the rapid reduction of undernutrition in Bangladesh [Policy Brief]. (2015) 4 pp. [LANSA Policy Brief, Issue 1]