46,000 workers to lose jobs

About 46,000 nutrition workers are subjected to  job curtail following a merger of the National Nutrition Programme with the mainstream health and family planning scheme in June.

The plan is taken up under World Bank prescription and will be finalised within this month.

Nutritionists and NGOs working on health issues say after the merger the focus on free delivery of nutrition packages to women and children will be drifted away and the nation would lose some 46,000 trained workers.

The health and family planning programme has remained ineffective due to lack of manpower and the nutrition programme is going to meet the same fate

With the new programme all the 42,000 nutrition centres at around 150 upazilas will be closed from June and nutrition packages be delivered through community clinics.

In a meeting on February 6, the health ministry decided to merge the nutrition scheme with five-year (2011-2016) Health Population and Nutrition Sector Development Programme. A draft operational plan has also been prepared.

The government and donors say the nation must have a sustainable nutrition programme, instead of a standalone one. Nutrition is a multi-sector issue and therefore, they argue, it should be part of the government’s mainstream activity.

Under the 12-year-old National Nutrition Programme (NNP) the government spent Tk 1,500 crore to deliver nutrition packages at around 150 upazilas while its target was to cover at least 174 upazilas.

In the new plan, nutrition measures will receive eight percent of total Tk 23,500 crore allocated for the five-year development programme and be directed by a National Nutrition Services cell under the Institute of Public Health and Nutrition (IPHN).

Through bringing it in the mainstream, the nutrition service would be available at all of the 488 upazilas of the country, officials say.

Experts are doubtful about this plan.

NNP is important for a country like Bangladesh where 45 percent children under age five and one third of mothers suffer from malnutrition, and 80 percent young infants from anaemia.

Experts also argue the NNP never got due attention from the government and the monitoring was also defective.

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