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 hour,” 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 is widened.”

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 on the “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 percent, which is 3.55 crore of the 16.36 crore people in Bangladesh. The extreme poverty rate is 11.13 percent, or about 2 crore, said Mohsin Ali, using the planning commission data.

About 2.5 crore 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 human rights. 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.

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