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To help world's children reach fifth birthday, look to this Bangladesh program

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But SHOUHARDO is about much more than food. It employs an integrated approach that addresses how people support their families and access nutritious meals. And it strikes at the underlying causes of malnutrition, including the deep inequities between women and men.

The results of SHOUHARDO have been phenomenal: Over the last four years, child stunting, the measure of the shortfall in growth due to malnutrition, has plummeted 28 percent despite natural disasters and spikes in food prices. The reduction came at twice the rate of the average US government funded project of its kind in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has the one of the world’s highest child malnutrition rates, but the country’s active and supportive government has helped contribute to the program’s success. Bangladesh is also a country with many policies and laws that protect women, which gives many of the participants in the SHOUHARDO additional support.

SHOUHARDO is one of the most comprehensive and integrated food aid programs in the world. There are very few programs that combine economic capacity building, health, and nutrition education with women’s empowerment.

While women’s empowerment initiatives aren’t new, the idea of combining direct interventions (such as giving pregnant women rations of food) with indirect interventions (such as addressing the disparity between women and men) is one of the program’s signature aspects. SHOUHARDO used a 360-degree approach, which resulted in a bigger impact on the lives of women and their families.

Morsheda is one of more than 2 million people who have benefitted from SHOUHARDO. Morsheda’s family calls her a “nutrition baby” because her mother Hanufa received nutritious food while she was pregnant until Morsheda was two years old. More importantly, Hanufa actively participated in the many health groups that enhanced her understanding of her rights as a woman and educated her on proper childcare.

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