26 August 2015, Dhaka. Interpersonal contact between healthcare workers and mothers have produced a large scale improvement in infant and young child feeding programme and in hand washing habits, said speakers at a seminar yesterday.
Referring to a baseline and an endline survey conducted in 2010 and 2014 respectively in 50 sub-districts where community-based Alive & Thrive programme was implemented by BRAC, they said exclusive breastfeeding went up to 88 per cent from 48, and the percentage of mothers washing hands before feeding young children improved from 23 per cent to 31.
They were addressing a dissemination seminar on Alive & Thrive programme, lessons learned and evaluation results on infant and young children feeding practices in Bangladesh, held at BRAC Centre Inn in the capital.
The Bangladesh part of the project had been implemented by BRAC from 2009 to 2014 with a strong emphasis on community engagement by using its existing healthcare platforms and a cadre of frontline community health workers.
"People in Bangladesh are very receptive," said Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker in parliament, at the programme.
The chair of the event, BRAC’s executive director Dr Muhammad Musa noted that nutrition interventions are difficult to implement and the high success rate of Bangladesh proves the strength of BRAC’s engagement with the community.
Ellen Piwoz, senior programme officer on nutrition at the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, said: “We are looking forward to working in Bangladesh with government, BRAC, and all the partners in future with our new strategy.” She also added that the project on improving infant and young child feeding practices funded in three countries was the “most successful” in Bangladesh.
Launched in 2009 in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Ethiopia with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Canadian and Irish governments, Alive & Thrive used advocacy, interpersonal communication and community mobilisation, mass media and strategic data to improve breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices and to reduce stunting and anaemia in young children.
Besides, BRAC and other international development organisations joined the initiative under the management of FHI 360, a US-based organisation.
Dr Tina Sanghvi, country programme director and senior technical advisor, Alive & Thrive said Bangladesh's improvement in breastfeeding was better than Vietnam and Ethiopia where the exclusive breastfeeding increased from 19 percent to 58 and 72 percent to 83 respectively.
Complementary feeding with diet diversity increased in Bangladesh from 32 per cent to 64, she said.