Making a world of difference
Come dinnertime, and parents around the world start thinking about what to feed their children. For mothers like Minu* and Rumana* across Bangladesh it wasn’t always easy. But thanks to support from generous donors and their local community health workers, they have been able to nurse their children back to good health.
A precious girl gets a chance to flourish
Mum-of-five Minu is no stranger to raising infants. After her first three boys were born, she was delighted to have a daughter. But despite her experience, she didn’t recognise her toddler daughter Hadija* wasn’t just small; she was suffering from undernutrition.
Luckily, community health workers were on the ground and able to give Minu the advice she needed to get Hadija’s health back on track. “Najmul Bhai and Munn Apa [staff from the Save the Children] told me to feed Hadija on vegetables, various fruits, egg and milk. They said to feed her while walking and telling stories. I followed their instructions and fed her while walking. If I fed her fish once, I gave her egg another time. I followed their instructions and after that my baby fully recovered from malnutrition.”
Now a thriving two-year-old, Hadija loves her food and loves being fed by her mum.
Minu, 32, feeds her daughter Hadija, 2 at home in Sylhet, Bangladesh
The happiest mum
Rumana* clearly loves being a mum. She has three children, ranging in age from seven to two-and-a-half. She is seven months pregnant with her fourth. “I love it when my children come and call me ‘Ama’ (mum) and hug me. That’s my favourite thing.”
She delivered her previous babies at the local hospital and is now getting the care she needs to give birth to her next healthy baby. Because she received home visits during her pregnancy from Save the Children staff who supported her with nutrition advice and medical checkups, she’s now hoping to deliver her baby at home.
Her other children too, are faring better, after the home visits. “They used the MUAC band [to test for malnutrition] on my youngest child and checked the child’s height and physical development – blood pressure, weight, iron levels. They gave me iron and calcium tablets.”
Now the doting mum doesn’t worry about their health – just the mischief they get up to. “My children climb trees, play marbles and cricket, chase each other, play peekaboo – only when they’re at home and sleeping do I stop worrying about them!”
Emo, 5, with her mother Rumana, who is 7 months pregnant.
The long-term impacts of undernutrition
Dr Zakir works at the local hospital where Rumana had her three babies. He often sees malnourished children at the hospital – almost half the children in this area are affected. When children don’t get the nutrition they need to nourish their growing bodies and brains, it can lead to consequences that are irreversible.
Now, mothers like Minu and Rumana can reverse malnutrition in their children and give them a fighting chance at a healthy and happy future.
Save the Children staff go door-to-door in communities, to reach these children. “Those children wouldn’t be identified normally,” explains Dr Zakir.
“We used to receive 5-6 children at my clinic each month, because people wouldn’t notice if a child had low weight, or if a child is shorter than usual. These issues were not addressed seriously.”
Children are now regularly weighed and measured for their height. If a child is found to be dangerously undernourished, they’re then referred to the hospital who can provide treatment. Dr Zakir’s work has increased to seeing nearly 15 children a month.
Minu and Rumana are just two mums who want the best for their children. By giving them a bit of extra support, they can now ensure their kids fall asleep with smiling faces and full bellies.
Dr Zakir Hussain, on his ward rounds, at a Health Complex in Sylhet, Bangladesh.
*Names have been changed to protect the real identities of the children and their families.
Photo: Tom Merilion/Save The Children