In Bangladesh, WFP aims to improve the long-term food security and nutritional well-being of people living in the poorest and most food insecure communities, both in rural and urban areas. WFP has been assisting the poorest people of Bangladesh since 1974 and has assisted more than 155 million people through development programmes over the past 39 years. In close cooperation with the Government, local and international NGOs and UN partners, WFP fights undernutrition throughout the life cycle. With nutritious food rations and behaviour change communication WFP reaches pregnant women and nursing mothers, young children, pre- and primary school students and ultra-poor and food insecure adults.
Improving Maternal And Child Nutrition
The aim of WFP’s Nutrition Strategy in Bangladesh is to support the government in breaking the intergenerational cycle of undernutrition by giving priority to a child’s first 1000 days of life. WFP is actively engaged in the initiatives Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition (REACH) and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) which provide the principal coordination mechanisms.
To promote the nutritional status of undernourished children under two, pregnant and nursing women and adolescent girls WFP provides specialised nutritious foods. These distributions are complemented by behaviour change communication aimed at improving nutrition and hygiene practices. These sessions are attended by young women and mothers, other caretakers of undernourished children as well as a wider audience of community members.
School Feeding And Home Grown School Meals
Together, the Government and WFP currently support 2.7 million schoolchildren with high energy biscuits every day they come to class. Thanks to a gradual hand-over initiated in 2011, the Government now covers 1.7 million of these students from its own resources the National School Feeding Programme based on the WFP model. WFP continues to support the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education with scale up and management of the programme.
The vitamin and mineral biscuits encourage children to attend school and give students the energy and micronutrients to concentrate on their studies. They also are an additional incentive for parents to keep their children in school. In an accompanying learning package, children, their parents and other community members learn about vegetable gardening, health, nutrition and hygiene.
The school feeding programme has been successful in improving primary school enrolment and attendance, reducing dropout, and alleviating micronutrient deficiencies and hunger among pre- and primary school students in rural and urban areas with high poverty rates.
In 2013, WFP and the Government launched a cooked school meals initiative, providing children with a freshly prepared meal made from fortified rice and oil, protein rich pulses, vegetables and spices. Local women are recruited as paid cooks or earn income by selling vegetables from their own cultivation for the school meals in their village school.
Enhancing Resilience To Disasters And The Effects Of Climate Change
To improve communities’ resilience to natural disasters and the effects of climate change and strengthen their agricultural production, WFP works with the Government of Bangladesh and local stakeholders – community-based NGOs and Union and Upazila Disaster Management Committees – to strengthen joint preparedness and response capabilities.
WFP supports communities to construct or repair embankments, flood and cyclone shelters, road-cum-embankments and irrigation and drainage canals. Over the past 39 years, 27,251 km of roads and 17,000 km of embankments have been reconstructed (including raising roads above flood levels); 4,120 km of drainage/irrigation canals and 3,000 acres of water bodies (mainly ponds) have been re-excavated and brought back into productive use; 38 million trees have been planted; 25,200 homesteads were raised; and 1,000 emergency flood and cyclone shelters were repaired.
During the rainy season, when earth work is difficult, participants attend training sessions where they learn disaster risk reduction planning, climate change adaptation and survival during crisis.
The majority of participants are ultra-poor women; usually confined to their homes and villages, they face additional barriers to gaining an income and are more vulnerable than men to the consequences of natural disasters. Self-employment of women will need to play an important role in sustaining the gains made at household level. Therefore, in a third programme year, women from participating households are trained on developing a small business and receive a one-off cash grant for investment as well as a monthly cash transfer for twelve months. The monthly payment allows them to focus on growing their investment and increase their families’ economic resilience, food security and nutrition in the long term.
Strengthening Government Social Safety Nets
In 2011, WFP began to place a greater emphasis on strengthening the capacity of the Government to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its safety net programmes through training workshops and advocacy. WFP is directly involved in assisting the Government to strengthen its Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) programme and in implementing and expanding its School Feeding programme. WFP was implementing the VGD programme jointly with the Government from the 1970s until 2010. WFP’s role has gradually transitioned from direct implementation to strengthening the systems. In January 2012, WFP opened its first Programme Support Units at the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and a few months later, in the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to support the VGD and National School Feeding Programmes.
From 2009 to 2012, the Food Security for the Ultra Poor programme supported 30,000 ultra-poor women and their families in north-western Bangladesh to improve their food security and nutrition. Over 24 months the women received a one-off cash-grant for investment, a monthly stipend, savings and asset growth assistance and a curriculum of specialised trainings. They invested their grants into income generating activities and re-invested the profits. Several rounds of reinvestment saw most of the women achieve significant asset growth and diversification across several businesses. At the end of the project, the average income of participants had quadrupled, the value of household assets had tripled, and savings increased by over 450 percent. Participants report they now eat three meals a day and consume more diverse food. The project provided valuable evidence to feed into WFP’s other programmes and the dialogue with the Government on national safety net reform.
To explore what kinds of social safety net transfers work best for the rural ultra-poor, WFP has initiated a Transfer Modality Research Initiative in a joint effort with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), supported and guided by the Government of Bangladesh through an established interagency Technical Committee. Under the initiative, 4,000 ultra-poor women in the north-west and southern coastal areas of Bangladesh are receiving a monthly transfer to determine the benefits of five different types and combinations of transfers – including cash, food, and nutrition behavioural change communication (BCC) – with regard to three critical outcome indicators: household income, food security, and child nutrition.
Supporting Refugees from Myanmar
Since 1992, WFP has provided food assistance to registered refugees who fled to Bangladesh from the Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar in 1991. The programme currently provides assistance to 31,000 refugees in two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. As the sole organisation providing food assistance in these camps, WFP’s support is crucial to meeting the basic food security and nutrition needs of this population. WFP supports all registered refugees with rice, pulses, fortified oil, salt, sugar and specialised nutritious food. In addition, WFP provides specialised nutritious food to pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, and micronutrient-fortified biscuits to all pre-and primary school students.