Tackling child malnutrition

Chronic malnutrition is having significant long-term repercussions on children’s physical and cognitive development in Bangladesh and impacting the country’s future development.

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Through the Unilever Foundation’s global partnership with Save the Children we are working to tackle malnutrition and improve the health and well-being of children in some of Bangladesh’s poorest communities.

The 2014 Unilever Foundation Global Ambassador for Save the Children, Osita Abana, an assistant communications manager from Nigeria, travelled to Bangladesh to see some of the projects in action and meet the local communities. Here is his inspiring journey.

Malnutrition in Bangladesh

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Chronic malnutrition affects 41% of all children in Bangladesh and is one of the key underlying reasons that one in 19 children in the country do not make it to their fifth birthday. For those who survive beyond their fifth birthday, chronic malnutrition can have long-lasting effects and prevent children from achieving their potential in life: it is estimated that malnourished children earn 20% less in adulthood. Malnutrition also has an impact on Bangladesh’s economy, estimated to cost approximately US$1 billion a year in lost economic productivity.

Save the Children is working with local communities and the government of Bangladesh to ensure that children and their families have access to nutritious food and the essential healthcare they need. Through our partnership we are facilitating the scale-up of the government’s National Nutritional Service by equipping clinics and training health workers. At a community level, Save the Children is working directly with families to improve their access to nutritious food and increase their livelihood opportunities.

“I believe every child has a right to a happy and healthy childhood. It was inspiring to see how Save the Children is providing life-changing interventions and tackling malnutrition from all angles,” Osita says.

Breaking the cycle of malnutrition

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He visited health facilities in Satkania in the south-east of the country to meet health workers and mothers benefiting from Save the Children’s work. Osita says: “It was really fascinating to see how simple solutions help – solutions most of us take for granted, such as teaching women the correct ways to position their babies during breastfeeding and how to provide a balanced diet containing essential nutrients for children using local foods.”

He also spent time at a project to reduce chronic malnutrition in Mollarhat, in south-west Bangladesh, where mothers are taught about basic nutrition and how to set up vegetable gardens in their homesteads, not only to grow vegetables for their family but also to sell the surplus to provide a new source of income. Men also receive training to learn how to run their small business successfully.

Osita says: “Save the Children is helping communities to lift themselves out of poverty. I visited families who have doubled or tripled their monthly income just six months after starting their businesses. With their improved earnings, parents are motivated to give their children opportunities they never had.”

Watch this video of Osita’s visit to the projects in Bangladesh https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwms1Ir-n3E(Link opens in a new window)

The power of partnership

With Unilever’s support, Save the Children has reached over 528,000 women and children in Bangladesh over the past two and a half years. The programme has improved 164 health clinics and has trained more than 3,240 health workers to provide life-saving support to children in Bangladesh.

As the two programmes in Satkania and Mollarhat continue, Unilever’s support will enable thousands more children and their families to access the necessary healthcare and nutritious food they need, and encourage them to improve their livelihoods, helping end the cycle of chronic malnutrition.

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