A baby born into a poor rural community in Bangladesh has a lot of hurdles to overcome.
Surviving the birth is the first challenge — 8 out of 10 births in Bangladesh are at home, on a dirt floor, without a skilled health worker present, putting both the baby and the mother at risk.
Most mothers breastfeed, which provides infants with a healthy start, but after the first six months, nutrition becomes a big challenge. Poverty, high food prices and lacking knowledge about when and how to best introduce complementary foods, means that only 21% of children under two receive a minimum acceptable diet and 41% of children under the age of five are stunted (too short for their age, which impairs cognitive ability, and results in 20% lower earnings as an adult).
If the family doesn’t have enough food, when the child reaches school age, she will have to work to support the family (almost seven million children between five and 14 have to work to help their families survive). She may be sent away from her parents to be a child domestic worker in the home of another family in the city (there are around 400,000 child domestic workers between the ages of 6 and 17 in Bangladesh). Working in the home of a stranger who completely controls her life, the child would be hidden from public security, forced to work long hours for little or no pay, and subject to physical and sexual abuse (5% are raped by employers, 20% are physically tortured, and some are killed).
At around age 13 or 14, the child would be called back to her village and forced to marry (2/3 of girls are married before they turn 18). Soon after the wedding, she would be pregnant with her first child (60% of girls have their first baby before the age of 18) and she may not survive childbirth (girls who are married before the age of 18 are five times as likely to die during childbirth).
Once her baby is born, the cycle starts over again, repeating and multiplying with each short generation.
Uneducated, poor, young mothers in rural Bangladesh fear for their babies. But is there a way to change the cycle and allow these mothers to hope for a better future for their children? In September, I visited Bangladesh with Save the Children Canada and had the opportunity to visit their health, nutrition and education programs.
Read on to find out how they are working with communities to chart a new path…
Except where indicated via a link, all facts cited are from written or verbal materials from Save the Children.
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