What are you having for dinner tonight? Probably a nutritious meal which provides you with the proteins, vitamins and minerals you need for a well-balanced diet. Sounds delicious.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the world has the comfort of a good meal every day.

A baseline study we carried out in 2013 showed that people in Bangladesh – especially those affected by leprosy and disability were consuming diets of poor nutritional value. This is because disabilities and stigma caused by this disease often leave people unable to work, which means they earn a lower income and cannot always afford the food that’s needed to maintain a healthy diet.

Studies have shown that for people affected by leprosy, fruit consumption is low and their daily diet largely consists of white rice, with few vegetables, pulses and minimal protein.

The impact is disadvantageous to those who are trying to rebuild their lives after – or while dealing with a disease such as leprosy. People with a poor diet cannot work well, children are malnourished, and babies are born with low birth weight. Moreover, malnutrition is a risk factor associated with the clinical manifestation of leprosy. It is therefore essential to prevent malnutrition in families affected by leprosy – who are already at a higher risk of infection.

Our exciting new project

This is why we are implementing a Nutrition Education Project in the Bogra district of Bangladesh later this month. The project has been funded by the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and the newly established Bogra Federation will lead the project – along with our support.

The aim of the project is to improve the nutritional status of people affected by leprosy, as well as their family members and neighbours, by raising awareness of the importance of a nutritious and balanced diet and improving the knowledge of vitamins and minerals.

For each of the 12 sub-district federations in Bogra, women will be trained to be the ‘Nutrition Representative’ gaining knowledge of basic nutritional facts. Each of them will then discuss this in self-help groups in her sub-district. Additionally, she will hold kitchen gardening and cooking demonstrations to teach group members new recipes with vegetables and pulses. Lastly, we will set up advocacy and network sessions with nutrition programmes of the government as well as NGOs in order to assure support in the future.

A woma holding up a drawing is talking to a group of men and women sitting on the ground.

A group discussion

A sustainable and integrated approach

The project will continue for 18 months and will be monitored quarterly in meetings with the different Nutrition Representatives and the Federation leaders. The aim is to reach up to 4,000 people affected by leprosy and their family members through cooking demonstrations and nutrition education.

We believe it is essential to focus on the person and not the disease. As such, this project is part of our integrated approach to beat leprosy.

Read about our other projects in Bangladesh