The country is facing a triple burden with over a fifth of children under five stunted, a high prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies reflected in high rates of anemia, and outbreaks of Vitamin B deficiency, and a rapid increase in overweight and obesity cases.
According to Fill the Nutrient Gap (FNG) Bhutan 2022 Report, to prevent all forms of malnutrition, all individuals need to be able to access and afford healthy, nutrient-dense and diverse diets, including the most vulnerable individuals, such as children under 2 and pregnant and lactating women.
The Government has prioritized the fight against malnutrition as one of the most effective entry points for human development, poverty reduction and economic development. Therefore, the FNG exercise was initiated in early 2022 undertaken by the World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), to support the implementation of the National Nutrition Strategy and Action Plan.
According to the report, poor dietary quality and overconsumption of staples are key drivers of malnutrition in Bhutan, and adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, but the targeted interventions can make an essential contribution to closing the nutrient gap.
The analysis found that around 27 percent of the population could not afford nutritious diet. Meeting nutrient needs cost Nu 13,825 per household per month. So, nearly 3 in 10 households cannot afford to meet their nutrient needs.
It recommends introducing multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) for nutritionally vulnerable groups including adolescent girls, nuns and pregnant and lactating women.
The analysis also recommends strengthening infant and young child feeding practices, including the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months and complementary feeding for children six to 23 months using diverse nutritious foods along with micronutrient powder to improve dietary quality, which is already being implemented by MoH. And strengthening the food system by promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture and diversifying production beyond staples.
“Nutrition is the foundation of life, and we must strive to provide optimal nutrition to our population through the life course. However, it is very multi-sectoral when it comes to achieving the desired outcomes. Therefore, I would like to call upon all actors including development partners for continuous unwavering commitment and support to improve the nutritional status of the population,” said the Health Minister.