10 March 2010
The river districts of the northern Jamuna in Bangladesh are home to approximately 3.5 million people.
One million of these inhabitants live on river islands and bars, commonly known as chars. These chars are surrounded by water throughout the year and are prone to acute erosion.
It means vulnerable and insecure livelihoods for char dwellers. These families are some of the most food-insecure and poorest people in Bangladesh.
One in every two children under 5 who live on these chars are stunted, one in six of them severely.
Wasting, a measure of acute undernutrition, is found in 94% of children suffering from chronic undernutrition. Women and girls suffer above average levels of anaemia, while boys, on average, show greater acute and chronic malnutrition compared to girls.
The Chars Livelihoods Programme aims to improve the livelihoods of one million extremely poor and vulnerable island chars dwellers. The programme transfers livestock, vegetable seeds, cash for work, micro-nutrient sprinkles, and other assets, to 55,000 core families which are having real benefits for nutrition.
Families have more vegetables to eat and some are drinking milk and eating eggs for the first time; girls and pregnant women are taking folic acid and iron.
Raising awareness is leading to changes in their health, hygiene and diet. As a result 36% less mothers are suffering from Chronic Energy Deficiency, they have gained weight and improved their BMI. At the same time, the incidence of stunting and underweight children has reduced significantly.