The readymade garment (RMG) industry significantly contributes to Bangladesh's GDP and export earnings. The sector directly employs approximately 3 million women - but a recent study demonstrated that 77–80% of female Bangladeshi RMG workers are anaemic. Why is this important? Anaemia is associated with a significant productivity loss in terms of GDP, increased maternal and perinatal mortality, and contributes to global mortality.
A recent study evaluated the effectiveness of workplace nutrition programmes on anaemia reduction in female RMG workers in Bangladesh. Two types of interventions were carried out, alongside behaviour change counseling (BCC):
- Group A: Lunch meal intervention package: daily nutritionally-enhanced (with fortified rice) hot lunch, once weekly iron-folic acid (IFA) supplement and monthly enhanced (with nutrition module) BCC
- Group B: Lunch meal control package: regular lunch and BCC
- Group C: Non-meal intervention package: twice-weekly IFA and enhanced BCC versus
- Group D: Non-meal control package: BCC alone
Difference-in-difference (DID) method was used to determine that anaemia was reduced significantly in both meal and non-meal interventions by DID 32 and 12 percentage points respectively (Groups A and C) compared with the control groups (B and D). Results show that anaemia was reduced more significantly when a daily nutritious and diverse meal was provided, combined with a weekly IFA tablet. Among non-lunch factories, IFA was able to reduce anaemia significantly, but the rate of reduction was not as high as in lunch meal factories.
Authors therefore call on government, policymakers and readymade garment factory owners to implement and scale up this combined workforce nutrition programme in all garment factories in Bangladesh to successfully reduce and prevent anemia.