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Celebrating 15 years of sharing knowledge & saving lives in Bangladesh

celebrating saving lives in bangladesh - WCF image

Following the national dissemination of results from our most recent project in collaboration with PCP – the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh Perinatal Care project – Women and Children First looks back on some of the substantial developments that have taken place in Bangladesh since we first started collaborating in 2002.

Over the last fifteen years, together we have established over 1,000 women’s groups across Bangladesh contributing to saving mothers’ and babies’ lives.

Our programmes have addressed maternal, newborn and child health challenges facing communities in the districts of Bogra, Faridpur and Moulavibazar in Bangladesh. Our 1,004 women’s groups have empowered women and their communities to take action and make a lasting impact on their and their childrens’ health.

In a country with the sixth largest number of newborn deaths globally, and a high maternal mortality rate, any changes that can help people to address the factors underpinning maternal and newborn health can have a considerable impact. Ensuring that women can access services, that attendants wash their hands with soap prior to delivery, and that men are engaged with maternal and child health issues, are examples of simple actions that can make all the difference. Our projects also sought to improve the quality of services provided by health facilities, particularly improving the training of healthcare staff so that women seeking their services received the care to which they were entitled.

Over the course of three consecutive programmes, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the UK Department for International Development, we have seen improvements in the safety of home deliveries as well as an increase in care-seeking: attending ante-natal check-ups at health facilities and women delivering at a health facility. What’s more, practices like breastfeeding newborns within the first hour of delivery have also steadily increased, and communities are aware of how crucial it is to exclusively feed breast milk to babies under 6 months of age. Women are more aware of how family planning can contribute to their and their children’s health. A controlled trial which concluded in 2013 affirmed that these changes had succeeded in reducing newborn mortality by up to 38% across the communities where women’s groups had been set up.

Our latest programme started in the summer of 2014 and ran until December 2016 in Bogra District, northern Bangladesh. A total of 196 women’s groups were established, recruiting over 10,000 community members. This programme also involved engaging with policy makers and local stakeholders to ensure ownership, commitments and sustainability of the interventions beyond the end of programme and into the future.