Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of impaired linear growth ("stunting") in South Asia. Despite significant economic progress over the decades, 31% of children under 5 years of age are affected by this condition (Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2017-2018). A substantial portion of the population remains food insecure. Undernutrition imposes a high social and economic cost on the country, estimated at USD 1 billion per year or a 20% reduction in the earnings of stunted adults, disproportionately affecting the poorest. Between 2020 and 2022, this situation was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused market closures, disruptions to transport networks, and lockdowns.

Factors contributing to this situation include poverty, lack of social protection, natural disasters, and low levels of food production. A focus on staple food production to ensure national food security, rather than dietary diversity, hampers farmers' ability to produce a nutritious diet for themselves and the market. This is further aggravated by increasing climate volatility. Amongst the poor rural population, there is a deficit in knowledge about Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices, and adolescent health. They also face difficulties in accessing relevant goods, services, and safety nets. Community clinics are under-resourced. Traditional gender patterns, including income inequality and under-age marriage, exacerbate the situation. Government leadership and coordination, including at the local level, has been weak, as is the ability of communities and civil society to advocate effectively for their rights and needs. The multi-dimensional nature of undernutrition is not always fully grasped, nor is the relevance of the private sector.

In response, the European Union’s (EU) “Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) Programme for Bangladesh 2015-2020” was launched. One of its component grant projects is “SONGO – Sustained Opportunities for Nutrition Governance” (the “Intervention”), implemented in Rangpur Division, one of the two most vulnerable Divisions in Bangladesh, with a stunting prevalence of 42.1% according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of Bangladesh (2012-2013). It is implemented by a Dutch non-governmental organization (NGO), Stichting Cordaid (Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development), and a Bangladeshi NGO, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS). The total budget is EUR 9,000,000, of which 85% is funded by the EU under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) – Asia & Central Asia and 15% by Cordaid. After the recent approval of a ten-month No Cost Extension (NCE), the duration is 70 months (from 02/Sep/2018 to 30/Jun/2024).