Bangladesh children surviving poverty, malnutrition

Baby Mahdi’s issues predated his birth in a village on the banks of the Rakti River in northeastern Bangladesh. His mother, Ismat Ara, was born into a low-income household, and her parents had already predetermined her marriage and forced her to leave school.

Mohammad Kawser, Baby Mahdi’s father, is responsible for providing his family with a daily income whenever and wherever he can find work. Mohammad Kawser travels about looking for a job every day, whether in the rice fields during harvest or on building and sand extraction sites.

He earns 200 to 300 taka (about $2 to $3) on a good day and nothing on a bad day. There will only be food for the young family if he can find a job.

They typically consume rice and vegetables, skipping out on the protein found in fish, eggs, and meat because they can’t usually afford it.

Mahdi’s mother was only 18 when she became pregnant, and the family struggled to make ends meet while she carried the pregnancy. Mahdi has had weak health since birth.

“I was unable to supply him with adequate breast milk. He frequently got sick, and he complained and cried a lot. Ismat Ara says, “We were aware that he wasn’t getting enough milk, but we couldn’t do anything about it.

Floods struck their hamlet a few months after Mahdi was born; trapped in the floodwaters, Mohammad Kawser and Ismat Ara saw their little belongings go with the water; they piled what they could onto a makeshift ladder; they made it to the roof; and they waited.

After a week, the flood finally subsided, but Mahdi was too weak to cry.

After the flood, I could not find employment; only Allah knows how we lived, claims Muhammad Kawser.

Mahdi’s condition got worse. In Sylhet, community health professionals went around the hamlet assessing and weighing children under the age of five as part of an intervention supported by UNICEF in response to the flooding. On one of these visits, a community health worker examined Mahdi at home and advised his parents that their child was very underweight and required immediate medical attention.

They arrived at Tahirpur hospital by boat and across muddy roads when Mahdi’s severe acute malnutrition was verified. He was given therapeutic milk, also known as F-75 and F-100, used to treat kids with severe acute malnutrition and stimulate their appetite. In cooperation with Bangladesh government and other partners, UNICEF offers a package of supplies to healthcare facilities to treat malnourished children, including F-75 and F-100 milk.

In Bangladesh, millions of kids are malnourished, and the effects can endure for years. Stunting, a condition marked by poor growth and development, may result.

Stunting causes irreparable harm to a child’s body and brain. It lowers academic and professional performance and increases the chance of infectious disease death in youngsters. While there are currently 4.4 million children who are stunted, adults who were also stunted as children have a lifelong burden.

Severe wasting or thinning can also be brought on by poor nutrition. Almost 400,000 kids are currently withering away. Wallowing, if left untreated, can be lethal.
More must be done to end malnutrition, even though stunting and wasting have decreased over time.

Stunting and wasting are more common in children like Mahdi, who were born into the poorest families and had mothers who had left school. The risk dramatically rises when disasters like floods occur.

Due to a scarcity of community health workers, Bangladesh lacks a systematic method of regularly testing children to identify malnutrition at the local level. Only in times of emergency, when communities are cut off from or unable to access conventional health care, are door-to-door growth monitoring and screening services offered.

Beyond prevention, UNICEF collaborates with other partners to make available therapeutic milk, medications, and other supplies for malnourished children. Kazi Dil Afroza Islam, the head of UNICEF’s field office in Sylhet, argues that early detection is essential to getting children the required assistance.

Mahdi, the infant, has recovered and gained significant weight. Mohammad Kawser adds, “We didn’t know about this particular milk, and it’s a gift to see our son happy again.

Mohammad Kawser is concerned that his son will become unwell once more since food is getting more expensive, but the future is uncertain.

Formerly, I could buy a kilogram of rice for only 50 takas (about half a dollar), but now everything is more expensive, forcing me to accept less than we need.
Mohammad Kawser searches for employment daily while Ismat Ara is at home caring for the infant Mahdi.

The light of our lives, according to Mohammad Kawser, is his son.

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