Working Paper
Food Deprivation and Undernutrition in Rural Bangladesh

After the devastating famine of 1974, Bangladesh has successfully avoided any further disaster of its kind, surviving two close calls in 1979 and 1984 and a succession of floods in the recent years. Welcome as it, this success raises for the analyst a number of questions regarding the evolution of Bangladesh economy. One such question is whether the rural poor of Bangladesh have gained over time a more secure entitlement to food with which to survive temporary shocks. We have argued elsewhere that the non-famines of 1979 and 1984 owed themselves greatly to certain fortuitous circumstances rather than to a steady improvement in food entitlement (Osmani (forthcoming)). Yet the issue of long term evolution of food entitlement is by no means settled. Using more recent information, it has been argued in some quarters that there has been an appreciable improvement in rural poverty since Independence, especially in the decade of the eighties (World Bank (1987), Rahman and Haque (1988), BBS (1988)). In the light of these recent contributions, we shall take a fresh look at the issue of long-term changes in food deprivation and undernutrition in rural Bangladesh, try to understand the processes underlying these changes and to glean a few lessons for public policy.