by Emamul Haque
COX'S BAZAR -- Tommy Miah, a renowned chef in the UK, put his talents on display for poor refugee women in Bangladesh last week, cooking up an array of nutritious dishes using WFP food rations along with fruit and vegetables grown in the Kutupalong camp.
Involving women community leaders in the demonstration, Tommy cooked mushroom fried rice, pumpkin and lentil soup, vegetable pakora, garlic mushrooms, spinach (sag) with potatoes and banana fritters - a dessert consisting of banana, sweet syrup and WFP's fortified Wheat Soya Blend (WSB) formula.
Sobmeraj, a 35-year-old mother with seven family members to provide for, said she had never thought before that such a nutritious and tasty meal could be prepared with such limited and cheap items.
Good for health
"I realized that cleanliness and good presentation are important in enjoying our meals, and I believe they're good for our health as well," she said.
The demonstration, organised by WFP in connection with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, created greater awareness on the importance of nutrition and a balanced diet amongst the women community leaders of the camp where over 11,000 refugees live.
Tommy also looked at the tiny kitchens available to refugee women, passing on tips on how to cook nutritious food with locally available cheap ingredients.
"I have learnt that to retain the nutrition content of vegetables it's better not to wash them after cutting (as I currently do) but they should be washed beforehand," said Jahura, a 45-year-old mother with eight family members to cook for.
Vitamins and minerals
While Tommy gave her cooking tips, WFP field monitor Masing Newar explained the types of vitamins and minerals found in the foods and educated her on the causes and consequences of under nutrition.
"Today's experiences and demonstrations, if practised widely in the camp, can make needed changes at the community level, without disturbing traditions," said Selina Akhter, Nutrition worker of Action Contre la Faim (ACF), which is providing a package of nutrition services including assisting mothers of undernourished children to grow vegetables in their homes.
Thanking WFP for organizing the event, Tommy Miah said he felt he had provided useful input. "I believe that the tips and stories that I have shared will give women leaders the confidence to develop positive health behaviours in their homes and community."
WFP runs its programmes in the two refugee camps in Cox's Bazar in conjunction with a number of UN and NGO partners including UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, BDRCS, ACF, RTMI and TAI.