Ambassador Bernicat’s Remarks on the Launching of Nobo Jatra

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NOVEMBER 30, 2016

Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury (Maya), Honorable Minister, Bir Bikram, MP, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh

Md. Shah Kamal, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh

Md. Abdus Samad, Khulna Divisional Commissioner

Jed Hoffman, Vice President, Resource Development and Management, World Vision USA

Fred Witteveen, National Director, World Vision Bangladesh

Colleagues from U.S. Mission in Dhaka, esteemed officials and representatives from the government and NGOs, friends from the media, and partners in development

Ladies and gentlemen,

Assalamu Alaikum, nomoshkar and good afternoon!

Over the past forty five years, Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in improving the food security of its people. We have witnessed remarkable gains in agricultural productivity to the point where Bangladesh is now almost self-sufficient in rice production. Bangladeshis have greater access to healthcare and as a result extreme poverty has decreased creating citizenry that is healthier and more productive than ever.

Despite these successes, Bangladesh remains vulnerable to a variety of internal and external forces. Fluctuations in world food prices, seasonal flooding, cyclone and other natural disasters, all threaten to undo the progress already made. There is still a great deal to be done to improve the economic status and standard of living, especially for the poorest and most disadvantaged.   As many as 30 million Bangladeshis still live in extreme poverty and are continuously undernourished. Experts estimate that at least 60 million

Bangladeshis lack sufficient food at least six to seven months per year. These families do not eat three meals a day nor are they eating a balanced diet. For children the situation is even more serious. The data from the 2014 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey is troubling. Thirty-six percent of children under five are considered to be stunted. Stunting is a tremendously important issue in that it results from chronic, long-term malnourishment. Stunting affects not only height but also overall health and most importantly cognitive development. Since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, the United States has had an ongoing commitment and focus on food security and assistance.

We are here today to celebrate the beginning of USAID’s new food assistance development project, Nobo Jatra, which in English means “new beginning”. Over the past five years, USAID has reached 3.5 million of Bangladesh’s poorest and most vulnerable people through its key Food for Peace projects. Today, I am very pleased to announce the launch of the new, five-year $74 million Nobo Jatra program, which will address food insecurity among the poorest and most vulnerable people in the southwest coastal areas of Bangladesh.

Nobo Jatra, building on the previous successes, will address three ongoing objectives—enhancing food security by increasing the production, consumption and marketing of locally produced agricultural products; addressing malnutrition by improving diets and helping families adequately feed their children; and increasing resilience by helping government agencies and communities prepare for inevitable disasters and recover from them more quickly and successfully.

This battle against food insecurity, malnutrition and natural disasters is not won in a day or a year. It is an ongoing effort to build institutions, communities and families. It involves working in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh at all levels, the donor community, civil society and private enterprise, to develop strategies that make Bangladesh stronger, more resilient and more capable of marshaling and applying resources to address these acute needs.

We will only be successful in this effort by working together, building strong partnerships and sharing the knowledge we have with each other as we will do here today.  I am pleased you could join me today for this very important event. Thank you for what you have done in the past but more importantly, for what you continue to do and will do in the future. I look forward to continuing this dialogue and partnership with you and your organizations in the coming months and years.

Thank you very much, onek dhonnobad!

In Bangla (PDF 302 KB)