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Mother in Bangladesh holding her baby. May 2021.

Working with the fashion industry, civil society and government to support mothers and children in Bangladesh

This programme collaborates with a wide range of partners, from the apparel company PVH Corp. to UNICEF and the Government of Bangladesh, all with the goal of improving nutrition for mothers and children in Bangladesh. It works at the community level to improve nutrition services and advocates for better working conditions for women in the ready-made garment industry.

PARTNERS

  • UNICEF
  • CIFF
  • UBS Optimus Foundation
  • PVH Corp.
  • Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
  • Government of Bangladesh
  • UK Aid

SDGS SUPPORTED

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health & Wellbeing
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 17 - Partnership for the Goals

CONVENED FUNDS

$13.1m

LOCATION

Bangladesh - six regions

DATES

2021 - 2026

Introduction

Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries. In recent decades its national government has made significant strides in tackling poverty, but one in five people still live below the national poverty line. It is also vulnerable to natural disasters and Covid-19 had a significant impact on the country’s already stretched health system. 

These issues compounded in a troubling number of women of reproductive age suffering from conditions related to malnutrition – 19% of women are underweight and 42% are anaemic. This causes major implications for women’s own health, as well as any children they may choose to have and their future livelihood. 

These high rates of malnutrition lead to Bangladesh experiencing the highest rate of low birth weight babies in the world. Each year, approximately 860,000 babies are born underweight - which increases their risk of future health concerns, as well as the immediate risk of death. On top of this, fewer than one in five pregnant women (18%) receives regular quality antenatal care visits and half of all deliveries take place at home, typically without skilled birth assistance – hugely increasing the risk for mothers and their baby.

Working conditions can exacerbate issues of malnutrition and anaemia in women. Ready-made garment production is one of Bangladesh’s biggest industries, employing approximately four million people, with the majority (60%) being women. Almost half of factory workers are believed to experience malnutrition and anaemia, a condition made worse for many women when they become pregnant. More work needs to be done to support women’s nutritional health, ultimately supporting children’s nutritional health and the development of future generations in Bangladesh.

Our programme

To tackle these challenging rates of malnutrition, The Power of Nutrition convened a unique partnership between apparel company PVH Corp., NORAD and UNICEF to support the Government of Bangladesh in its goal to improve the quality and coverage of maternal and child nutrition services. A key focus of the programme is bolstering services at grassroots level - this involves creating open channels for communications, such as group counselling, to help foster positive nutrition behaviour.

As well as at the community level, work is being done to strengthen health systems to be able to deliver quality maternal nutrition care. The programme also aims to promote a community-driven approach to increase the demand for improved maternal nutrition services.

Using expertise from partner PVH Corp., the programme extends its efforts to the ready-made garment sector, aiming to provide and strengthen maternal nutrition services in 20 factories. This includes setting up new safe breastfeeding spaces and breaks, childcare provision, distributing multiple micronutrient supplements and providing paid maternity leave.

Programme interventions

Supplementation for pregnant women

Increasing access to critical vitamin supplements for pregnant women and children under five.

Spaces for working mothers

Introducing breastfeeding spaces and breaks, childcare provision, paid maternity leave, cash and medical benefits, employment protection and non-discrimination, and safe-work provision for expectant mothers in ready-made garment factories.

Breastfeeding counselling

Providing nutrition education and counselling for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Neonatal health care

Improving critical health care for low birth weight babies at community health facilities.

Advocacy at government level

Working with the Bangladeshi Government, communities and industry actors to promote and protect women’s maternity rights, giving them the opportunity to establish better post-birth practices like breastfeeding.

Image UNICEF Haque

Mofijul's story

Mofijul Haque, an electrician from Mondoler Khuti village, Nageshwari upazila, welcomed Baby Bayzid in September 2023. Bayzid faced initial challenges due to to a very low weight, triggering a prompt response from health care assistant Renuka Akter. Renuka helped Bayzid's mother breastfeed, so Bayzid could be stable. Renuka then introduced the family to the childcare practice of kangaroo mother care which promotes skin-to-skin contact and is crucial for low birth weight babies. 

Despite initial concerns about Bayzid's weight dropping at the start, Renuka was there to reassure the family, emphasising the importance of continuous breastfeeding and kangaroo care. On the third visit, Baby Bayzid weighed 2,100 grams, showing signs of improvement. Renuka’s support extended to Bayzid’s mother, with guidance on her own nutrition too.

The family, through Renuka’s support, actively participate in kangaroo care, showing their commitment to Bayzid's wellbeing and turning a challenging start into a story of resilience and care.

Weighing only 2kg at birth, Baby Bayzid faced a challenging start. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of family welfare assistant Renuka Akter, the newborn now thrives at home through kangaroo mother care

PROGRAMME IMPACT

Progress to date

73k

women reached

800

counselling sessions provided

1.2k

training sessions provided

96k

Children reached

Through prioritising community-based engagement initiatives and empowering health workers with training, the programme is showing substantial progress. To date, more than 60,000 women have been supported with improved nutrition and healthcare and over 800 counselling sessions have taken place.

The success of the programme is also helping to motivate the Government of Bangladesh to invest further resources into nutrition, replicating its model to other districts to ensure broader, more sustainable impact across the whole country.

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Photo credits

Banner image: UNICEF/Bangladesh/2020/Haque