by Ramona Ridolfi
HKI and WorldFish International Women’s Day event. Photo: c. HKI
Rooted in the centuries-old struggle for gender equality, International Women’s Day celebrates ordinary women as makers of history.
In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8th as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
Since then this special day has integrated a new global dimension: the growing international women’s movement. This movement has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, and International Women’s Day has evolved to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
Traditional Birth Attendants who received Essential Nutrition Training through HKI. Photo: c. HKI
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.
Imagine that your sight is slowly declining and you have no idea why. That’s what happened to Bibhuti Chakraborthy, a 55 year-old farmer and father of three children who lives in rural Bangladesh.
Bibhuti attending his most recent check-up. Photo: c. HKI
Three years ago, Bibhuti noticed that he could no longer see his fields as clearly as he once did. Tasks that were once simple became more difficult because he had trouble seeing. He didn’t understand what was happening to his vision or why he could no longer see properly and everyday life became a struggle. Desperate for answers, he visited the nearest hospital where he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy, a condition where damage to the blood vessels in your eye leads to visual impairment. Bibhuti was not even aware that he had diabetes or that diabetes could be connected to the vision problems he was experiencing. Unfortunately, Bibhuti’s story is not uncommon: people suffering from Diabetic Retinopathy are often unaware that their vision problems are connected to diabetes.
Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) affects 4.2 million people around the world, most of whom live in developing countries. With cases of diabetes on the rise worldwide, it is more important than ever that diabetics understand the risks and complications of the disease. HKI trains health workers to screen people for DR to promote early detection. The program also provides treatment and counseling that helps diabetes patients understand the risk factors associated with diabetes. Piloted three years ago in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the program has already provided screenings to 25,000 diabetics and preserved the sight of 4,000 of them.
Bibuthi is seeing much better these days. He completed a sightsaving laser treatment in his right eye and is about to undergo another surgery for his left eye. Thanks to HKI’s counseling programs and regular visits to his doctor, he now understands the implications of his diabetes. He tries to walk at least 20 minutes each morning, takes his tea without sugar and tries to balance his diet with more vegetables, cutting out the sugars and fats that worsen his condition. He also receives regular phone calls to remind him of his check-ups and treatments, and Bibuthi is glad to know that HKI is with him each step of the way as he continues on the path toward clearer vision.
This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern at HKI Bangladesh.
A health Worker teaches a young child and his mother proper handwashing methods. Photo: c. HKI
Around the world, from large urban centers to tiny rural villages, from the United States to Bangladesh, in schools, homes, community and health centers, people are celebrating Global Handwashing Day! Regularly washing hands with soap before or after critical daily activities which spread germs, like after using the toilet or before eating, can lead to reduced instances of many illnesses such as Neglected Tropical Diseases, like trachoma, or diarrhea and several respiratory diseases.
This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern with HKI Bangladesh.
Gradute school has made me quite aware of when and how the learning process works best. After hours of long lectures in large auditoriums, I relished those one-on-one meetings with a professor to solidify the content and ask all my questions. On a recent visit to HKI’s Project Laser Beam (PLB), I had the opportunity to see the effect that this unique kind of personalized education can have on family health and nutrition.
Jarna and her daughter at their home
Jarna lives in a small home in Kaligonj, Bangladesh with her husband, her parents-in-law, and her two-year-old daughter. Her husband’s income as a local rickshaw-van puller, approximately 150 taka (~$1.90) a day, supports their entire family. Through Mondelēz International Foundation-sponsored Project Laser Beam, Jarna is attending educational sessions to learn about ways she can provide the best nutrition for her family and contribute fresh produce from her garden, part of the Homestead Food Production program, for the household.
This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern with HKI Bangladesh.
Women in Bangladesh benefit from HKI's Project Laser Beam. Photo: c. HKI
I recently joined the HKI Bangladesh team as a Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition intern as part of my Masters of Public Health program with Columbia University. Like any start to a new adventure in life, I set goals for what I hoped to accomplish for myself and for the team, and I made plans for my future. During a visit to HKI’s Project Laser Beam in the Southern regions of Bangladesh, I found a few women who were also making big plans for their future and looking to learn from HKI as well.
Women Farmers in Fada N'Gourma, Burkina Faso, at a training nursery where orange-fleshed sweetpotato and other nutritious crops are being grown.
I started with Helen Keller International in April 1994 – as country director in Bangladesh. One of the most exciting programs I inherited was our home gardening initiative – which has evolved to become Enhanced Homestead Food Production – “enhanced” to include small animal husbandry and increased focus on promotion of optimal nutrition and health behaviors. When I moved from Bangladesh back to Africa in 1997 this was one experience I ardently wanted to replicate – since access to nutritious foods is one of the major obstacles that women face in providing adequate diets to their children.
I also observed firsthand how bringing technical expertise to small-holder women farmers could be transformational – building on their traditional knowledge about gardening and allowing them to develop more skills and generate increased income.
It is very moving, 19 years after having joined HKI, to sign this new grant with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
An interview with HKI's Senior Ophthalmologist and Eye Health Advisor.
You sometimes hear the phrase, “One plus one equals three,” and I have been struck by the power of that notion in my work with Helen Keller International through the partnerships we create with local organizations. I recently sat down with Dr. David S. Friedman, HKI’s Senior Ophthalmologist and Eye Health Advisor, to talk about his experiences in public health and his perspective on building partnerships to achieve success. Dr. Friedman most recently was awarded the prestigious Alcon Research Institute award for his contributions to ophthalmic research.