Malnutrition: The Other Side

by Alvi Rahman on February 21, 2014

alviprof My name is Alvi Rahman and I am currently a sophomore studying Health Sciences at Boston University. I am aware that there are many public health issues going on all over the world. I sincerely hope that the students from my generation will feel a stronger sense of social responsibility to serve these people. We have been blessed with an amazing education and life here in the United States. It’s humbling to realize that there are people dying constantly and daily all over the world and we are completely unaware of it. I have made it one of my top priorities that once I am capable, I will try my best to help these people in any way I can. But in the meantime, I have to inspire others and educate on how we can help in what is feasible. I hope the time comes soon where I can bring positive change to this world.

As I held onto my notebook, I walked through the airport in this foreign country where I had only been three times in total. I could hear the murmurs from all over and soon as I left the terminal, I saw them. There were about hundreds of people sitting down with a decrepit vibe, begging for money. I didn’t understand. At this time, I was at the ripe age of fourteen, I felt a sense of fervor for these people. My mother grabbed my hand and walked straight past them. As I left the actual airport, it didn’t stop. I could see children who looked my age but looked nothing like. They were stunted and you could see the bones protruding through their skin. I had to stop myself from gagging. I was in my parent’s home country; Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. Child malnutrition is one of the many pervasive health concerns in the country. More than one-half of all children under the age of five years are either underweight or stunted. Nearly 13-19 percent of children are severely underweight. Due to this issue, these children are suffering from chronic malnutrition, which can pose other health risks as well. (Deolalikar 2005)

malnutrition

 The highest malnutrition rates can be observed in the province of Sylhet, which showed the highest record of stunting (61.4%). There are several gender disparities as well as differences between rural and urban populations. The gender differences were more defined at younger ages. Girls are much more likely to be affected by malnutrition than boys. In fact, girls at the most risk are the ones aged 6-11 months. However, after 6 years of age, there are no major gender differences. (Shafique 2006) This lack of malnutrition at older ages is due to the staggering rate of mortality. Most children don’t even live after that age due to the horrible living conditions. In terms of residential differences, the spatial malnutrition was not a factor until after the 1990s. (Deolalikar 2005) As expected, the urban areas had lower rates of malnutrition but the gap is now increasing at an alarmingly quick rate.

Malnutrition doesn’t just affect hunger and stunted growth. Bangladeshi children are also struggling with nutrient deficiencies. The deficiencies that exist with zinc, iodine, iron and Vitamin A. It has been discovered that anemia is prevalent with Bangladeshi children too. (Shafique 2006) A study published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal showed that malnourished children are at an increased risk for death due to diarrhea. Results showed that the contributions of enteric infection as well as diarrhea had a positive correlation with the number of malnourished children. (Mondal 2011)

However, there has been incredible progress in combating malnutrition. It has been predicted by the year of 2015, there will be a calculated decrease in the amount of children suffering from it. There has been improved production in cereal over the past decades. However, the biggest issue at hand is the rapid population growth. (Deolalikar 2005) It is also one of the densely populated countries, which poses another problem. There has been increased attention to policies focusing on fruits/vegetables as well as self-sufficient foods. There has also been an attempt to start a diversification of foods in Bangladesh to tackle the issue of malnutrition and health issues.

I remember my last day in Bangladesh. It was no better than my arrival. It was a humid night. I was holding my backpack and I desperately wanted to head back. Just in this short two-month stay, I dropped 15 pounds and I felt extremely sick. I couldn’t eat anything because I would simply throw up and the cycle would continue at every meal. As I was waiting in line to finally pass through the gates, I could see the beggars again with their children. I will never forget the looks on those children’s faces. One of them grabbed my hand and said in Bangla “brother, please, take me with you.” I made up my mind then that I would have to come back and somehow deal with this issue. Six years later, I’m still thinking about you. You’re not forgotten.

 

References

Deolalikar, A. B. D. (2005). Poverty and child malnutrition in bangladesh. Journal of Developing Societies,21(1-2), 55-90. Retrieved from http://jds.sagepub.com/content/21/1-2/55.full.pdf html

Shafique, S. S. (2006). Trends of under- and overweight among rural and urban poor women indicate the double burden of malnutrition in bangladesh.International Journal of Epidemiology36(2), 449-457. Retrieved from http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/36/2/449.long

Mondal, D. M. (2011). Contribution of enteric infection, altered intestinal barrier function, and maternal malnutrition to infant malnutrition in bangladesh.Clinical Infectious Diseases54(2), 185-192. Retrieved from http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/2/185.short


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Azman Rashid March 3, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Interesting and relevant anecdote backed up with relevant facts. Rahman is clearly passionate for the subject and personifies the situation in Bangladesh to the reader.

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Sejal Khan March 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm

This was interesting and have a lot of very good points throughout the article.

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Rakesh Dara March 3, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Alvi has reached new heights with his work. Not only am I in tears with the sheer beauty of this blog, but I am also inspired to help make a difference.

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Aniqa Mian March 3, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Wow Mr.Rahman just wow. I never realized how much a struggle people were going through in Bangladesh. You wrote so beautifully and precisely that I felt like I was walking through the city myself right now. You seem so passionate about this cause and I’m glad you are planning on making a difference. Individuals like you will truly make a difference in this world.

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Janine March 3, 2014 at 7:55 pm

You have an excellent way with words. As a Bangladeshi myself, I found this extremely interesting to read!

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Lemma Salem March 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Indeed a profound article. The issue of malnutrition is beautifully written and Alvi’s experience in his family’s country, Bangladesh, left me even more thankful for the blessings I have. Hopefully people will extend a hand and help people globally that suffer from these unfortunate deprivations and illnesses.

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Hibba March 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

The author does a great job of putting a personal spin on such a global issue. He skillfully combines anecdotes with well researched statistics. A great read, both informative and touching.

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Amir Ali March 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Just extraordinary. This article possessed the vivid imagery that you simply cannot make up. These are the anecdotes that need to be brought to attention more widely in our Boston University community. Seeing a current student genuinely engaged in the global vision, the wider community, it exemplifies exactly why we learn. This student clearly wants to bring his education beyond the confines of an exam or a semester, it seems Mr. Rahman genuinely wants to impact the world. Hopefully, this concern and awareness is taken into action to progress society in South-Eastern Asia. I really cannot express what seeing such a philanthropic vision and international awareness from a student means to me. This hit the soft spot right where it should. I’m fiddling in anxiousness to see what comes out of this.

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Xavier Quezada March 3, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Reading this almost put me to tears. I was reminded of my family back in Honduras. There is malnutrition there as well but I cannot believe how many people are suffering worldwide. Mr. Alvi has really put a strong perspective on this global issue and wrote with such passion I have rarely ever seen. The anecdote in the beginning was fully of masterful imagery on par with great writing. The writer has truly opened my eyes to this horrible situation happening in Bangladesh and it seems as if he will be amongst the next generation of leaders who will bring new change. I feel humbled after reading this piece. It touches my heart to see that there are still humanitarians in our world right now who are willing to make a change and it starts with individuals like Mr. Alvi. I salute you for your amazing writing. It truly is one of the best pieces of works I have read in a very long time. #LU

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Atiar March 4, 2014 at 7:43 am

I pretty much had the same experience when I went there. But I was 17. I’ve been to the country before, but this time I was much more aware of everything going on around me. That image you see when you leave the airport is something that you can’t forget. The month I spent there was definitely a humbling experience.

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