In Sylhet and Moulvibazar, the "Suchana" project, implemented by Save the Children in Bangladesh has helped 27% of the beneficiaries reach food security, a 14% increase in three years.
In a seminar jointly organised by Save the Children Bangladesh and icddr,b Wednesday, the results of the international health research organisation's evaluation survey to assess the impact of the Suchana programme from 2017 to 2020 were presented.
Food security is defined as having, at all times, both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life. A family is food secure when its members do not live in hunger or fear of hunger.
Between 14-27%, the proportion of women who could make their own decisions about major household purchases increased from 24.8% to 48.4%; food purchases from 44.0% to 69.3%; food preparation from 77.0% to 83%; their own healthcare from 51.0% to 72.3%; and their children's healthcare from 57.6% to 75.5%.
Also, minimum dietary diversity among women of reproductive age (15-49 years of age) was significantly higher at endline evaluation, reaching 53% compared to 27% at baseline.
Speaking as the chief guest, the planning minister said: "We have many programmes in nutrition, food security and have achieved a lot of success as a result of collaborative efforts. But we have many miles to go, and collaboration is the key. The government is keen to make changes in the food security, nutrition, and poverty sector in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030."
Professor Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, said: "We have made so many remarkable gains in development, poverty alleviation and improvement of healthcare services. But the extremely poor segment of the country is still left out and we need to include them, giving them the most basic needs pertaining to food, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)."
Maurizio Cian, head of cooperation at the European Union (EU) Delegation to Bangladesh, said: "The rate of stunting and wasting is still very high in Bangladesh. Multi-sectoral management and investment in this field need to be enhanced."
Judith Herbertson, development director of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Bangladesh, said: "The UK remains very strongly committed to addressing issues relating to nutrition. While poverty and many other development goals have been addressed, undernutrition continues to be a fundamental challenge in Bangladesh. This has been made worse because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Suchana will contribute to Bangladesh's 8th Five-Year Plan, making a lasting impact in the lives of the programme's beneficiaries."
Dr ASG Faruque, an emeritus scientist at the nutrition and clinical services division of icddr,b, delivered the presentation on the findings from the evaluation as conducted by icddr,b. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, executive director of icddr,b, on policy and programmatic recommendations based on the findings.
Dr Md Khalilur Rahman, director-general of the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council; Md Shahiduzzaman Faruki, director-general of food planning and monitoring unit of the Ministry of Food; Md. Asadullah, director-general of the Department of Agricultural Extension, and Quazi Shams Afroz, director-general of the Department of Fisheries, also attended the event as special guests.
Suchana is a large-scale, multi-sector nutrition programme targeting 235,500 poor and very poor households, reaching 1.4 million people in Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts in Bangladesh. It is funded by the FCDO and the EU.
The programme aims to reduce stunting among children under two years of age and catalyse support across government and other stakeholders for a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach to undernutrition nationally.
Working in partnership with the Bangladesh government, the Suchana consortium consists of Save the Children, and seven consortium members offering a range of specialised programmes and technical expertise: Helen Keller International, World Fish, International Development Enterprise, Friends in Village Development Bangladesh, Center for Natural Resource Studies, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Services. The icddr,b is the research partner of the consortium.