In Bangladesh, chronic and acute malnutrition are higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) thresholds for public health emergencies—it is one of 14 countries where eighty percent of the world’s stunted children live.
Food insecurity remains a critical concern, especially in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Located in the southeastern part of Bangladesh, CHT is home to 1.7 million people, of whom, about a third are indigenous communities living in the hills. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, but farming is difficult because of the steep and rugged terrain.
With support from the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) conducted a food and nutrition analysis which finds that more than 60% of the population in CHT migrates during April – July when food becomes harder to procure.
Based on these findings, MJF helped raise awareness through nutrition educational materials and training. The foundation staff also formed courtyard theatres with local youth to deliver nutrition messages, expanded food banks with nutritious and dry food items, and popularized the concept of a “one dish nutritious meal” through focal persons or “nutrition agents” among these communities.
Creating videos for better nutrition
In a new SAFANSI II project that started in 2016, MJF has partnered with Digital Green to produce videos with local communities to encourage the consumption of nutritious foods, including indigenous foods, threatened by packaged food products with low nutritional value.
Through this low-cost participatory video production model, Digital Green has trained “nutrition agents” to produce short videos featuring local women discussing the benefits of healthy meals using indigenous foods to help mothers better feed their children.
So far, Digital Green has delivered several training sessions on video production and participants have developed 5 short videos as part of a practical exercise.
The goal is to reach 2,064 women and children in the Rangamati and Bandarban districts.
Digital Green disseminated the videos using battery-operated Pico projectors among small community groups and trained a mediator to facilitate discussions and records attendees’ feedback and questions.
Later, Digital Green introduced a customizable, open-source data management system, Connect Online Connect Offline (COCO), which users can access on and offline to enter data about video screenings and audience interests, feedback, and behavior change.
Five new short videos on pregnant mother nutrition, lactating mother nutrition, locally available nutritious food, sick children nutrition, and child nutrition have been produced based on local context and in different languages.
In one of the videos, a community health worker advises a family how to feed their 7-month-old baby nutritious foods.
The project will be completed in September 2018 and an impact assessment is planned to understand how Information and Communications Technologies can influence nutritional habits and practices in local communities.