It is Hidden Hunger.

Some recent pictures which I found over the internet.

Photo: Shafiuddin Bitu

May be he is a drug addict, may be he is a mentally or physically retarded person, may be he is a poor father unable to feed himself after exhausting all the food for the children at home or may be he is all of the above. Basic food of poor Bangladeshis is rice and the rice price has skyrocketed beyond the reach of the poor over the last year. In such situation the people in the extreme edge of the society are usually the first victims. The vulnerable groups are usually the homeless, the poorest of the poors of the society. And among them the first to fall through the safety net are the mentally-physically disabled persons, drug addicts, the elderly and the children. It has been many years I last saw a skeleton image of a Bangladeshi citizen. I was getting used to the fact this sort images may only come out of Bosnia concentration camps or Somalia or else. This skeleton image of the man comes to me as a rude awakening.

News reports of hunger death started appearing scattered in our print media. This report confirms several hunger deaths.

Lines to buy rice. People are waiting in line for several hours to buy rice.

Hidden Hunger!!!

Hidden Hunger-This refers not to the overt and obvious hunger of poor people who are unable to afford enough to eat, but to a more insidious type caused by eating food that is cheap and filling but deficient in essential vitamins and micronutrients. A World Health Organisation report pointed out recently that this problem is widespread, in particular in the Third World, where families may fill themselves with cheap rice, say, but be unable to afford the fruit, vegetables and meat needed to provide a balanced diet. A related cause is that some of the “green revolution” crops of the 1960s and 1970s that were created specifically to reduce starvation are often short of nutrients such as zinc, iron and vitamin A.
The term hidden hunger is not often found outside specialist journals and is more common in news agency copy than in newspapers and magazines: at some point along the road to publication the phrase is blue-pencilled by sub-editors who regard it as jargon. It is sometimes also employed as a general term for the extreme poverty that can exist undetected or unacknowledged in developed countries; it has appeared in this sense in the USA and New Zealand in recent years.

According to Gautam, apart from absolute hunger stemming from lack of food, there are at least three more types of hunger, for instance, “hidden hunger” for micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins.

[Xinhua News Agency, Jun. 2002]

Hidden hunger persists in country, not famine, says Adviser Dr A. M. M. Sawkat Ali.

Disagreeing with the recent observation by an economist that a ‘silent famine’ has been prevailing in the country, the Food and Disaster Management Adviser Dr AMM Sawkat Ali yesterday categorically said a ‘hidden hunger’ is now persisting in the country rather than famine.

“When people die on a large scale due to starvation for scarcity of food then it can be termed as ‘famine’,” he said while speaking at a press briefing at the conference room of the Food and Disaster Management Ministry.

Listing the government initiatives for providing food to the marginalized people at affordable price, the Adviser, who is also in charge of the ministries of Health and Family Welfare said so far 137 metric tons of rice have been distributed under the Open Market Sale (OMS) of rice throughout the country. A total of 47 trucks have been engaged for selling of OMS rice throughout the country from the beginning of this month, he added.

He said that 40 more OMS rice trucks have added to the existing 15 in the capital city form yesterday.

He informed that 3 lakk 91 thousand and 228 people would get food under VGF programme up to the month of June as against 2 lakh 30 thousand and 328 people in the last year.

“Besides the VGF programme 44 thousand 5 hundred and 63 metric tons of rice would be provided to the distressed people under Gracious Relief (GR) programme” the Adviser said while mentioning different initiatives for the providing food to the poor of low income group.

Replying to a query he said rice has started arriving from India.

“The government has signed a contact with a private firm of India for importing 50 thousand metric tons of rice at a price of $ 397 per metric ton” he mentioned

He further said that USAID would provide 90 thousand metic tons of rice and ‘Care’ would supply it to the poor people.

He hoped that with the arrival of new harvest ‘Boro’ there would be no food crisis in the country.

Highlighting the importance of employment for the marginalized people Dr Sawkat Ali said Tk 100 crore has already been distributed to the District Commissioners (DC’s) for creating employment and income generating projects for the poor people.

He said that per person will get Tk 150 as wage per day labour under Food for Work Programme, repairing roads and embankments, canal digging, tree plantation and nurturing.

“Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED) is also working with different programmes at 118 upazilas of the country for employment of the poor people,” the Adviser added.

Secretary and high officials of the Food and Disaster Management ministry among others, were present on the occasion.