In many areas of Bangladesh, pregnant women and young children are often the last to eat at the family table and rarely receive adequate health care. In fact, Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization, and this is especially true for women and children. Without access to nutritious food, nutrition education, and trained birth attendants, both mother and child are at risk of health complications.
Without access to nutritious food, nutrition education, and trained birth attendants, both mother and child are at risk of health complications.
In 2009, World Renew received a five-year grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to work with its partners in Bangladesh to address this situation. The program focused on decreasing infant mortality rates by monitoring the growth of children under the age of five, and training birth attendants and community health volunteer training. The project also encouraged vaccinations, and provided training on hygiene, nutrition, and safe water.
The program was successful. In all of its target communities, the health and well-being of children improved substantially. More women were seeking and receiving adequate medical support during pregnancy and delivery. The nutrition of these women and their families had improved and they were breastfeeding their children longer. In addition, their children were showing signs of improved nourishment and health. The five year project also taught World Renew and its partners many important lessons about how to engage with communities about this topic and achieve success.
In 2014, World Renew took what it had learned in the previous five years and expanded the program into the sub-district of Durgapur, Bangladesh by using funding from its Canadian Foodgrains Bank Account.
Durgapur is home to approximately 200,000 people. The project strives to improve the health of babies by targeting their nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to their second birthday). Lack of proper care during this time places a child at risk of stunted growth, disease, and even death. It can also impact a child’s development, health, and income-potential for the rest of his or her life.
Through World Renew’s longtime local partner, PARI, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers are trained to walk alongside mothers and their children during and after pregnancy to mentor them in how to keep their children healthy.
The first step for a pregnant mother in the program is a visit with a community health volunteer. The mothers—and any other caregivers in the home—are educated about proper nutrition and feeding practices to enhance the health of her children, both in and out of the womb.
"As we began to give her complementary food, she is now growing fast. We are very happy.”
Fatema Khatun is one of the women participating in the program. She has a new appreciation for the importance of her children’s health in the early days of their life.
“I am happy to be able to monitor my baby’s growth. I did not know how to do this and I deprived my three other children,” she said. “But I am happy that one of my babies is growing normally and in good health.”
In addition to monthly monitoring of children’s height and weight, the project teaches women about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and about complementary feeding to help the baby meet the World Health Organization’s standards of an ‘acceptable diet’.
Akhimoni’s young life is a testament to the success of these efforts. When Akhimoni’s mother, Suma Kahtum, first joined the program Akhimoni was five months old. Akihimoni was her parents’ first child and had already had a rough start. She was born weighing only 1 kg (about 2 lbs) and was frequently sick.
When a community health volunteer assessed Akhimoni at five months old, she realized the infant was severely undernourished. She taught Suma how to introduce complimentary foods into Akhimoni’s diet and to monitor her growth each month.
“We were greatly depressed as we learned that our child is severely malnourished,” Suma said. “But as we began to give her complementary food, she is now growing fast. We are very happy.”
On March 6, many churches across Canada will be holding a Canadian Foodgrains Bank Sunday offering. Your gifts towards World Renew’s account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank will make it possible for programs like this to continue so that more people like Akhimoni can be helped.
Please give generously. Donate online today.
People living in the United States can also support this ministry through your gifts marked for “Maternal & Child Health” or “Bangladesh” Click here to give.