Dimensions of intra-household food and nutrient allocation : a study of a Bangladeshi village
This thesis describes and discusses a study conducted in a centralwest Bangladesh village, between March 1981 and January 1982, with a view to testing the hypothesis that intra-household allocation of food discriminates against women and children and that the discrimination puts the vulnerable members of the household at extra risks during periods when food and financial resources of households are scarcest. Intra-household allocation of food was studied by weighing the individual food intakes of household members for three consecutive days, at four different seasons covering periods of normal food availability, relative shortage and abundance of food. Nutritional status was assessed py consecutive measurement of weight (monthly) and height (quarterly). Information was collected on socio-economic status of households, people's perception of food needs (physiological) of individuals, household decision making and strategies in coping with shortage by structured and unstructured interviews and through personal observations. The sample consisted of 320 individuals in 53 households. Analysis of the study revealed lack of marked and consistent socioeconomic differentials in intake and outcome, but that highly significant seasonal differences did exist. The most important finding of the study is that although the intake of women and girls over 5 years was lower than that of men and boys over 5 years, the male-female differential did not generally exceed the differential between the two sexes that might be expected on the basis of body size and activity. Only in the 1-4 year age group was there a significant difference between energy intakes of males and females when corrected for body size. Furthermore, contrary to what has been generally postulated in the literature, (often based on qualitative information), women and children were not discriminated against during periods of food shortage, but were rather generally given preferential treatment in the allocation of available food. It is believed that the study adds to our understanding as to how seasonal fluctuations affect the food intake of 'poor' people in rural Bangladesh and how people cope with predictable cyclical periods of food shortage.