Caring for a newborn can be difficult no matter where you live. But in places like southwest Bangladesh, where frequent natural disasters and rising salinity make agricultural work difficult and limit other available job opportunities, keeping yourself and your new baby healthy is a greater challenge.
As a result, 26.8 percent of children under 5 are stunted in Bangladesh. One of every five women between the ages of 15 and 49 are underweight.
That’s why Nobo Jatra — a five-year development and food security program implemented by World Vision and funded by USAID — has a number of compassionate, innovative interventions that are changing everything for local mothers.
One mother, Monmohini Roy, has transformed her family’s lives with help from Nobo Jatra. The Roys are classified as “ultra poor.” Her husband is a day laborer on someone else’s land. They drank, bathed, and cooked with dirty water from a nearby pond. And when the couple became pregnant with their first child, they weren’t sure how they would properly care for her.
But Nobo Jatra was there to work alongside them to change their future. To start, Monmohini received Nobo Jatra’s helpful instructional SMS messages during and after her pregnancy with her daughter, Mimi, now 17 months. The messages offer tips on proper prenatal and postnatal care. Monmohini refers to them as messages from “her doctor sister.”
“The messages that came, some of them may seem very simple, like washing your hands,” she says. “But it’s not something that is practiced. These are really simple messages but not something that is practiced, like recognizing times when your child is ill, when to go the doctor.”
And as an ultra-poor household, the family was eligible for Nobo Jatra’s conditional cash transfer program. Monmohini uses the money to buy food and medical care for herself and their family.
The family also received a tank for harvesting rainwater, which they share with others as well.
“Before we used to collect water from the pond,” says Monmohini. “When we got the water tank, we were so happy. We are sharing this water with my brother-in-law and their families. Now we can escape some of the waterborne diseases.”
That’s not the only way Monmohini gives back: She opens her home to other new moms in her community every month, so Nobo Jatra’s nutrition facilitators can host courtyard feeding sessions there. In many ways, the sessions bring the care of a clinic right into a nearby courtyard: In addition to nutrition and feeding techniques, facilitators go over proper hygiene, postnatal care, and more.
“The number one thing we want to do with the Nobo Jatra program is to reduce stunting in children under 2,” says Saeqah Kabir, Knowledge Management and Communications Manager for Nobo Jatra at World Vision Bangladesh. “I believe we are on track to achieve this.”
The mothers in the program appreciate the hands-on training, but they also enjoy simply gathering with other moms.
“Because of these types of interventions, we get together with our neighboring sisters,” says Monmohini. “Before we weren’t like that. The babies can meet other babies and they are eager to eat more.”
Now, Monmohini has big dreams for Mimi: “I want my daughter to work with the government.”
She also wishes that even more children and families across Bangladesh could access programs like Nobo Jatra.
“That would be great,” she says. “Then Bangladesh would be a healthier nation.”
The name Nobo Jatra translates to “new beginning.” It’s a fitting name, given that the program is helping newborns like Mimi across southwest Bangladesh begin their lives with the best chance to thrive.
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Foreign assistance supports programs like Nobo Jatra that empower women, promote health and nutrition, and help communities lift themselves out of poverty. All this for about 1 percent of the total U.S. budget! Your voice helps these programs continue for families in southwest Bangladesh and all over the world!
Top photo: Monmohini Roy and her daughter at a World Vision nutrition class. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)