Three UWA researchers have recently returned from Bangladesh where they began work on a new project focused on saving the lives of young children in urban slums. Dr Hilary Wallace, Professor Petra Tschakert and Dr Mitali Manzur spent one week in Dhaka launching the project and collaborating with key partners from the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) and other leading early childhood agencies.
Figures from CIPRB have shown that injuries cause 38% of child deaths in Bangladesh and 50% of all injuries occur in the home. Young children have the highest risk of fatal injury from 9:00am – 3:00pm when parents are working.
To address this CIPRB has developed a community-based model of childcare called ‘Anchal’, which provides children with a safe environment where they also receive early childhood development stimulation, early education, and are taught important health messages. Anchal currently operate on a large scale in rural Bangladesh with 1,600 centres providing over 40,000 childcare places.
Dr Hilary Wallace from UWA’s Burn Injury Research Unit said this low-cost model uses as many resources as possible from the community in order to be sustainable.
“This is certainly a cost-effective way of reducing child mortality and there are likely to be other health, development and early learning benefits,” she said.
Given the rapid rate of urbanisation in mega-cities like Dhaka, slum populations are increasing and living conditions for young children are very hazardous. A large proportion of women living in slums work outside the home and young children are often unsupervised.
“Women are aware that their children are not safe while they are at work, and this causes anxiety and reduces their participation in the workforce,” she said.
Together with CIPRB and the University of Leeds, the UWA team will undertake research to support the adaptation of the rural Anchal model to urban slums in Dhaka and enable measurement of its impact.
“Adapting the rural Anchal model to urban slums has the potential to save children’s lives, prepare them for school and contribute to sustainable development – this multi-disciplinary research is vital to provide the evidence base for future scale-up and programme funding,” Dr Wallace said.
Contact: Dr Hilary Wallace, Senior Research Fellow, Burn Injury Research Unit, School of Surgery.
Ph (08) 6488 8597