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Impact of flooding on feeding practices of infants and young children in Dhaka, Bangladesh Slums: what are the coping strategies?

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Previous research has shown that urban slums are hostile environments for the growth of infants and young children (IYC). Flooding is a hazard commonly found in Dhaka slums (Bangladesh) which negatively impacts IYC's nutritional and health status. This paper aims 1) to identify the impact of flooding on IYC's feeding practices, and 2) to explore the coping strategies developed by caregivers. Qualitative data (participant observation and semi-structured interviews) and quantitative data (household questionnaire and anthropometric measurements) collected in slums in Dhaka (n = 18 mothers, n = 5 community health workers, and n = 55 children) were analysed. The subjects of the interviews were mothers and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) community health workers living and working in the slums. Research findings showed that breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices for IYC were poor and inappropriate due to lack of knowledge, time, and resources in normal times and worse during flooding. One coping strategy developed by mothers purposely to protect their IYC's nutritional status was to decrease their personal food intake. Our research findings suggest that mothers perceived the negative impact of flooding on their IYC's nutritional health but did not have the means to prevent it. They could only maintain their health through coping strategies which had other negative consequences. The results suggests a holistic approach combining 1) provision of relief for nutritionally vulnerable groups during flooding, 2) support to mothers in their working role, 3) breastfeeding counseling and support to lactating mothers with difficulties, and 4) preventing malnutrition in under 2 year old children.
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Keywords: Bangladesh; Dhaka slums; Feeding practices; Flood; Infant and Young children; Nutritional Status

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Health and Lifespan Research Centre, SSEHS, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK, and 2: James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Publication date: 2011-04-01

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