Dhaka, BANGLADESH – Nutrition International launched the ‘Right Start Initiative’ in Bangladesh to improve nutrition for women, adolescent girls and newborns in the country through a $CAN 3.2M (208M Bangladeshi Taka) investment over five years to 2020. The launch was held jointly with the Institute of Public Health Nutrition under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of Bangladesh.

Supported by the Government of Canada, Right Start aims to reduce anaemia, complications and deaths during pregnancy and delivery for mothers ― and low birth weight and neural tube defects such as spina bifida in newborns. It also seeks to reduce stunting in children under five years old.

Through this program, Nutrition International will build the capacity of healthcare service providers to promote and deliver interventions to improve care for pregnant mothers, reducing risks to their health ― and the health of their newborns. In addition, it will work with the national government and the Ministry of Food and Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs to ensure that food based social safety net program beneficiaries receive rice fortified with iron, folic acid and other micronutrients to reduce the risk of iron deficiency anaemia and folate deficiency in women of reproductive age and adolescent girls. In total, 2.6 million women and adolescent girls across Bangladesh will benefit from these interventions.

“Nutrition International has been supporting government efforts to address malnutrition for millions of Bangladeshi people for more than 20 years.  Building on the increasing awareness of the importance of nutrition to health, education, economic productivity, and stability – as well as the commitment we are seeing at highest levels – we are now increasing our level of engagement and our scope. Thanks to Canada’s support, through Right Start,  a global initiative, we will have a special focus on women, adolescent girls, and children who suffer a particularly heavy burden and hold the key to ending the cycle of malnutrition and building a better world.”
 Joel Spicer, President and CEO, Nutrition International

 

 “The Ministry of Health Family Welfare will continue to support Nutrition International with the implementation of all programs benefitting women, adolescent girls and young children and the Right Start initiative.  Our government will do what is needed to ensure no child or woman in Bangladesh remains undernourished.”
– Zahid Malik, MP, Honourable State Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Even though the country has achieved considerable progress in improving health and nutrition indicators, the burden of undernutrition among women of reproductive age and adolescent girls is significant. Around 40 per cent of women of reproductive age, including adolescent girls, have anaemia, which can impact their physical well-being, performance at work or school and increase the possibility of complications during pregnancy. Close to half of all newborns are not exclusively breastfed and one in three children under five is stunted.

The main interventions of the Right Start Program in Bangladesh include:

  1. Training healthcare service providers to ensure pregnant women receive improved antenatal care, including at least four antenatal checkups and daily iron and folic acid supplementation.
  2. Strengthening counselling to ensure early initiation of breastfeeding, appropriate nutrition intake for pregnant women and behaviour change communication to ensure a minimum of 180 Iron and Folic Acid tablets are consumed during pregnancy.
  3. Working closely with the national government to support the provision of fortified rice to social safety net program beneficiaries to reduce the risk of iron deficiency anaemia and folate deficiency in women of reproductive age and adolescent girls.
“Improving the nutrition of women and girls is key to empowering them, but it also benefits entire communities. That is why Canada is proud to partner with Nutrition International to help millions of women and girls around the world, to reach their full potential and become powerful agents of change.”
 His Excellency Benoit Préfontaine, High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh

“We hope to create great synergies in the drive for better nutrition for women, girls and children by linking Right Start initiative with the ongoing programs of the government of Bangladesh to bring down malnutrition in the country,” said Nutrition International Bangladesh Country Director Zaki Hasan.

Senior government officials, international donors, representatives from the private sector, community health workers, UN agencies, media, among others participated in the launch.

The Right Start Initiative is a multi-million dollar, multi-faceted initiative aiming to reach over 100 million women, adolescent girls, newborns and young children with improved nutrition in nine countries across Africa and Asia. Nutrition International will invest a total of about $CAD 10M (including $CAD 3.2 M for right Start) or 650M Bangladeshi Taka over the next three years in Bangladesh through its programs reaching out to people in poverty, women, girls, newborns and young children.

For more information, download the Right Start Bangladesh fact sheet (PDF) or infographic (PDF)