Food for thought

The future

The future

I’m still reeling from the announcement in the Annual Health Bulletin that 37% of our children are stunting, that 4.6% of them are wasting, and that 11.1% are underweight. That means that 52.7% of our children are under nourished. In other words, more than half our children do not have enough to eat.

Wasting, also called acute malnutrition, causes body fat and tissue to “waste” away, or to degenerate. And it is generally caused by extreme hunger, i.e., famine. So, even as I write this entry, one in every twenty children may be coping with famine.

Stunting or chronic malnutrition is caused by nutritional deficiencies over a long period of time. The bodies, organs and brains of children affected by stunting do not, and will never, develop fully. The effects of stunting are permanent, and many of those afflicted with it will die early. 37% of our children are stunting. That is, more than one in every three children is stunting.

We may lecture about GNH. And our HDI ranking may be improving. But the reality is that poverty is rife and that most of our children are hungry. The reality is that more than one third of our children have already been permanently robbed of their full potential. The reality is that, at this rate, we risk losing a whole generation of Bhutanese.  Left unchecked, the future of Bhutan cannot be bright.

Our government should be alarmed.


Facebook Comments:


  1. YES!

    Every Nu invested in rural road yields higher return to our society as a whole than Thimphu highways, kilometer by kilometer.

    The “food for thought” is one screaming reason why this is so.

    Whenever I talk about rural roads in Thimphu’s corridors of power, what I get is a smart nod, nice word or two in agreement, but no head-to-heart conviction.

    YES. The government ought to be alarmed, and ashamed.

    What we need, badly, is a small but real bipartisan group of MPs who champion the cause of the rural people, and put the money where the “decentralization” mouth is!

  2. By the way, don’t just add up those figures – I am pretty sure that these are overlapping figures. Nonetheless, it is not a nice figure. Welcome to the developing world – where these kinds of figures are present in almost all sectors and this is reality.

    And who is robbing our children? Capitalism and profit maximization – where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The rich get richer because they have the resources, the right network, the finances, etc. And who is suffering – the poor because we do not have all of these. This is the reality of capitalism all over the world.

    And, Don’t mean to be harsh but just don;t give a food for thought (being the OL) – which is the biggest problem. It is easy to make noise but I would assume that in your position, you should come up with ideas which will really give us a REAL FOOD FOR THOUGHT. I can go on complaining about every statistic in the country but I can’t come up with REAL IDEAS – which is what we need at the moment.

    I am sorry if this sounds a little harsh, but I am just so sick of only criticism (without any concrete ideas or action). Yes criticism is important but I think there are far more people doing that than people coming up with real ideas.

    • Mr Sangay, please excuse me but I think you are the hooligan making a lot of noise in here. We were just sharing our ideas. I want to say just three things to you:

      1. You don’t “mean to be harsh” but you are very harsh like a barbarian.

      2. No need to welcome anyone of us into to this “developing world” because we are all born in it. You just came in or what?

      3. Don’t teach your father what is capitalism and democracy.

      4. If you don’t agree with others’ opinions, that’s fine. You can put up your own arguments and “ideas” but don’t go personal.

  3. A good reminder, Honorable OL.
    Nice comment, Zekom.

    Our people talk a lot about the incredible developments made in the last few decades in our country. I agree. Yet I am uneasy to notice that when our rural people walked barefeet, our high officials rode horses; when our rural people wore cheap rubber shoes, our high officials drove jeeps; when our rural people wore decent leather shoes, our officials drove Prados and Landcruisers. You see the huge gap which is ever more widening? This is indeed very alarming. And if no proper steps are taken to curb this tendency, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. GNH can never be realized.

    On the other hand, the conditions in our rural schools are almost the same as it was two decades ago: shaggy houses and unstable huts used as classrooms with poor lightings, rough, muddy and rubble filled play grounds,congested dormitories cramped with students and bed bugs, inadequate and low quality teaching materials, shortages of proper furnitures, and most importantly, a huge shortage of teachers. I feel that it is how it was then, just a little better. A little.

    If our government do not come up with a brilliant foresighted policy and take immediate initiatives, these problems of quality of life of our rural folks and people at the lower rung of our social ladder will continue to worsen. As a matter of fact, our country is rich enough in natural resources and small enough in size to enjoy the highest standard of living and best quality of life not just in South Asia but also in the whole world. It just remains to see whether our leaders have the brains to achieve that.

  4. Dear Sangay,you probably have a pair of horn up your NUT. when someone is enlightening you with all the facts and figure where is the problem is accepting it why go so defensive about those “lots who are not performing” BE SENSIBLE MAN….

  5. hahaha..easier said than done!!

  6. To be fair, Sangay didn’t say anthing wrong IMO. Maybe he should have put it in a nice way. the fact of a matter is that statistic a a political game. The number means nothing if one is not willing to see the story behind these numbers. Like Sangay said, the rich gets richer and the poor poorer. This is because Bhutan is a country that doesn’t promote small industries, no credit facilities for new start ups, and above all present business are with short term goals – only after commissions and no real business development. Eg, Singay Group – can someone tell me how much their business contributed to the GDP and to the community? But we all know how much Singay has earned on the back of Bhutan’s tax benefits and on the back of the governmet’s strick licencing which only benefits the rich ones. There is no healthy competition in Bhutan. Good business models are not respected.

    Anyways, unless the government invest in grassroot level and develope a business environment where average Bhutanese can start business and employ people, the stats kindly presented by OL will only get worse.

  7. sorry for all these typos — at work, trying to do it quickly without boos noticing it 🙂

  8. another typo!

  9. A grave concern, indeed. Dear OL, thanks for the reminder.

    A dark reality and the best measure of how ineffective we’ve been in our development pursuit.

    We are not taking our jobs seriously. That’s for sure. What with the 18000 professionals (over 1000 of them with advanced university qualifications)? A growing GNI PC? Hydropower boom? Domestic airports..hehehe…

    As is with everyone, this issue is very close to my heart. I don’t have a long paper here, but i would like to point out one thing.

    We should accept this fact and face it straight. Not say ‘…because of rugged terrain..’ blah blah….and then…’you see…our poverty is not ‘abject’, it is something else…’ blah blah..i forgot the term, never mind. We are embarrassed and we are hiding.

    And, this is not going to help.

  10. Sometimes, i get hopeful when seeing a houseful of qualified and colourful leaders. Only to be led down by the very artificial policy discussions.

    It should be peanuts, if we are serious enough. Give me 60,000 men and we should be able to count the population of Bhutan with our fingers. And we are not talking about half of them.

  11. It is wrong to just take the figures as it is and be drawn to make conclusions. They can make good headlines and what we need are not headlines but some credible analysis and meaningful discussions.

    The picture would be clearer if we know the trends in this figures (interestingly the health bullentin doesn’t mention past figures). Then only would be know whether we have progressed or regressed in these areas. It is important to remember that modern development began in Bhutan just a few decades ago and we have achieved a lot. I am sure we are still improving in many areas.

    However I am not saying that we should pat ourselves, discuss a bit and forget these deplorable figures. The Government should definitely use such real findings to inform themselves and drive our policies forward.

  12. Well, you guys should stop the name calling. I think all have a valid point. It is enlightenining, it is deceptive, it is a number. Wee need to know if the story behind it and if the trend is increasing or decreasing and about the policies in place, especially access to education which in the long run will hopefully sove most problems. And sorry Sangay, I have no solutions either. I am one of those making noise like you said.

  13. drukparopa says

    food for thought! this is only my simplistic view, but would it be possible to start a fund aimed at feeding the most needy children. of course, this fund must be absolutely independent from any government machinery, and any international agencies like WFP and UNICEF, etc… [that is to ensure low overheads]. something similar to the VAST efforts in direct benefits to the intended recipient.
    seed money could be built by voluntary contributions; the start of which could be spearheaded by the esteemed members of parliament. they need to contribute a sum of money equivalent to only one days minimum wage rate. add to that a matching amount if not more by the civil service, judiciary, armed forces, private sector, media people, etc.
    once there is an initial fund, then efforts must be continued to build up that fund, and be used to feeding the children.
    something along these lines.
    also, a parallel feeding/nutrition action must be taken up for infants, as it is the feeding practices for infants, particularly under 1 year, that will affect their later development.
    also, how is it possible that all this is happening in the face of all our development. something seems to be messed up with the agriculture and health programmes.

  14. dorji thongja says

    Many good points are raised in many comments. It is good to note that many are making constructive comments. Hon’ble OL, I agree with Sangay’s point about adding figures. Many of us who have lived quite a number of years in the villages know about the problem of malnutrition even before the health statistics are out. But now we need to come up with suggestions. Drukparopa’s idea about creating a fund is good. Even if each MP donates Nu.1000 a month we would be having over Nu. 70,000. But how about the rich people, Tashi Comm, Zimdra, Karma Steel…. etc. Hope they will one day show some examples to others by starting to donate. Many do not mind spending a lot for tshechu, loches, and rimdros but when it comes to donations, many are reluctant. We need to do something so that the “food for thought” becomes the real food – a source of vitamins, carbohydrates, protein,… for our future leaders.

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