Bangladesh should immediately enact the Right to Food Act and implement it in order to ensure adequate amount of food and nutrition for the poor and extremely poor people in the country, speakers said yesterday.
“Enacting the right to food act is a demand of the time,” said Mohsin Ali, general secretary of the Right to Food Movement.
“If it is made into a law, its effectiveness will increase and the scope for accountability widen.”
Arshad Hossain Siddiqui, lobby and advocacy expert for South & Central Asia Region at ICCO Cooperation, a global non-governmental organisation, echoed Mohsin Ali.
Siddiqui said: “An act on the right to food and safe food has to be formulated. The constitution has guaranteed the right to food. Now it should be legally established.”
They spoke at a dialogue titled “Need to Enact a Food Right Act and the Role of the Media” at the conference room of the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) in Dhaka. The Right to Food Bangladesh and the ERF jointly organised the dialogue.
In Bangladesh, the poverty rate is 21.8 per cent, which is 35.5 million of the total 163.6 million people in Bangladesh. The extreme poverty rate is 11.13 per cent, or about 20 million, said Mohsin Ali, using the Planning Commission data.
About 25 million people are suffering from malnutrition, he said.
Ali, also the executive director of the Wave Foundation, said the access to adequate food is seen in the light of a right. The United Nations also declared it as a human right. The first two Sustainable Development Goals also address poverty and hunger.
“When you make it a right, then it doesn’t remain as a matter of giving alms; rather it becomes an entitlement.”
He said Bangladesh has made impressive strides in economic and social sectors. “Nobody now dies from hunger. But there is slow death and early death from not having access to required amount of food and nutritious food for years after years, a thing which is not visible.”
Mohsin Ali said there is mis-targeting in the social safety net programmes and this should be addressed.
He urged the government to take measures to provide skills training, funds and employment opportunities to the people belonging to the extreme poverty group, so that they can graduate from their current position, according to an ERF press release received today.
Siddiqui of ICCO Cooperation said that as Bangladesh is marching towards becoming a middle income country, the right to food should be legally established.
About 20 million people either go to bed unfed or do not have adequate amount of food, he said. “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 the right to food has become even more important following recent revelations about the type of substandard food people are consuming.
“It is true that people in Bangladesh don’t die from hunger. But at the same time, the country hasn’t progressed much when it comes to safe food.”
The event was organised in association with the Christian Aid and the ICCO Cooperation
ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam moderated the discussion.