This blog was written by HKI Bangladesh field intern, Hannah Taylor.
The thousand days between conception and a child’s second birthday is the most crucial period for physical development. During this time, appropriate nutrition for the mother and child, including the right quantity of energy-rich foods and a diverse diet of micronutrients, helps to ensure healthy physical growth and development. However, inadequate nutrition during this stage of a child’s development has severe health consequences lasting into adulthood. Undernourished children face higher risks of blindness, anemia, thyroid diseases, acute and chronic infections and the potential for lifelong stunting. While Bangladesh has seen significant improvement in infant mortality and undernutrition in children in the last two decades, the International Center for Diarrheal Diseases Research, Bangladesh estimates that 41% of children under five years old in Bangladesh remain underweight.
Helen Keller International Bangladesh addresses childhood undernutrition and its grave effects on physical and mental development by targeting interventions during these 1000 days. On a recent visit to the USAID-sponsored Nobo Jibon project in Patuakhali, I met with a group of traditional birth attendants who had received Essential Nutrition Actions training through HKI. During the trainings, attendants discussed nutrition information for pregnant women such as the importance of taking additional food during pregnancy as well as the health benefits of breast milk. The traditional birth attendants learn how to counsel women and their families during the pregnancy on the changing nutritional needs of the expectant mother and the importance of exclusive breastfeeding immediately following delivery.
But the support does not stop at the delivery. While in Patuakhali, I had the opportunity to attend a monthly Community Growth Monitoring Program where HKI beneficiaries receive additional nutritional counseling relevant to their child’s age, weight and health status. At the event, I met Myna and her two month old daughter, Maria. Myna has been to all of the nutrition education sessions through Nobo Jibon where she learned about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding immediately after birth and giving the newborn colostrum, protein-rich early breast milk. Additionally, at each of the growth monitoring sessions, Lily Begum, a Village Health Committee member and the traditional birth attendant who counseled Myna and delivered baby Maria is present to help weigh the child and offer continued support. Myna shared that after giving birth to baby Maria, she “provided colostrum and am continuing with exclusive breastfeeding.”
Myna and Maria will attend these monitoring sessions through the Nobo Jibon project until Maria is two years old. Through the educational sessions, Myna will learn about how to introduce complementary feeding after six-months, proper handwashing and food preparation and the importance of dietary diversity. Targeting the first 1000 days of development, Helen Keller International is striving to eliminate childhood undernutrition, baby by baby.