Bangladesh, World Bank cooperate to improve child nutrition

19 Feb 2017, 18:22

Online Desk
Photo courtesy: World Bank

Dhaka: Bangladesh government and World Bank (WB) on Sunday launched a cash benefits program for 600,000 of the country's poorest mothers and pregnant women in exchange for their participation in activities to improve their children's nutrition and cognitive development. 

The WB has committed US$300 million for the program, which will benefit over one million children, said a media release.

At the launch of the 'Jawtno Program', 51 poor mothers received their first payment through biometrically-secured Post Office cash cards. 

The beneficiary mothers and pregnant women will receive quarterly electronic cash transfers for utilizing services related to their children's health and development, including antenatal care visits, child growth monitoring and early learning activities for children under the age of five at the community clinics. 

"The Jawtno Program will contribute to the empowerment of women, which will help Bangladesh achieve Sustainable Development Goals and reduce poverty," said LGRD and Cooperatives minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain while speaking at the launching program. 

"The program will also establish Safety Net Cells at the Union Councils, which will strengthen the Union Council's capacity to implement safety net programs. As a result, I believe, sustainable development will be ensured," he added. 

"Despite Bangladesh's remarkable progress in immunization coverage, and infant mortality reduction, about 36 percent of children under five are stunted. The children from poor households bear a disproportionate burden of stunted growth," said WB Country Director Qimiao Fan. 

"The World Bank places a high priority on supporting Bangladesh to improve the nutrition and cognitive development of children in their early years. The Jawtno Program focuses on prenatal care, and young children's nutrition and cognitive development, and these efforts help poor children to do better in adult life," he added. 

The 'Jawtno Program' will select eligible beneficiaries using the National Household Database being developed by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. An automated Management Information System will help the program monitor beneficiary enrollment, attendance, payments and grievances. 

The program will be implemented in 43 upazilas with a high prevalence of poverty and malnutrition in seven districts, namely, Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Sherpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, and Nilphamari. 

The program is built upon the success of the pilot Shombhob, which found that beneficiary households experienced an increase in consumption of nutritious foods and children's health outcomes when cash transfers were linked to the use of growth monitoring and nutritional counseling services.

The program will also strengthen the capacity of the union parishads to administer the conditional cash transfer program; community clinics to deliver nutrition counseling, growth monitoring and child cognitive development services; and the Union Post Offices to use biometric technology for cash transfers.