Bangladesh has been among the countries with the highest rates of impaired linear growth ("stunting") in South Asia. Despite decades of significant economic progress, 31% of children under 5 years of age are affected by this condition (Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2017-2018), and a significant proportion of the country’s population is still food insecure. Undernutrition exacts a high social and economic cost on the country, estimated at USD 1 billion per year or a reduction of 20% in stunted adults’ earnings, disproportionately affecting the poorest. Between 2020 – 2022, this was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which entailed the closure of markets, disruptions to transport networks, and lockdowns.

Poverty, lack of social protection, natural disasters, and low levels of food production have contributed to this situation. A continuing drive towards staple food production to ensure national food security, instead of action on dietary diversity, hampers farmers' ability to produce a nutritious diet for themselves and the market. This is aggravated by increasing climate volatility. Among 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, have 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.

As a 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”), to be 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 organisation (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).