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Bangladesh to receive large aid packages for development

This week, the United Nations (UN) has signed an agreement to provide 1.8 billion dollars to Bangladesh over the next five years to support development work.

This follows a similar pledge by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) earlier this year. DFID listed Bangladesh as one of its top 6 priority countries for aid, proposing an increase in spending totaling 1 billion pounds (1.6 billion dollars) by 2015.

Under its Development Assistance Framework 2012-2016, the UN’s package will be spent on priority areas such as food security, urban development and gender equality, investments which will help Bangladesh meet its millennium development goals (MDG). According to the UN’s Development Programme in the country, Bangladesh is currently on track to meet over 20 of its 52 MDG targets.

The World Bank has also separately approved a loan of 359 million dollars for the improvement of health services in Bangladesh, particularly those aimed at women and children. Significant strides have been made in reducing child mortality, with the country expected to meet all three of its MDG targets in this area, lowering deaths of children under-five to below 48 for every 1,000 live births by 2015. But though the maternal mortality ratio has declined from 320 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2001 to 194 in 2010, Bangladesh faces a real challenge to sustain an ongoing reduction and meet its MDG target of 144 by 2015. And while poverty has been coming down, forty per cent of Bangladeshis still live on less than a dollar a day, which has a huge impact on the health of women and children, many of whom remain severely malnourished.

High rates of poverty in Bangladesh are particularly hard to address with the country’s fast growing population. According to current forecasts Bangladesh will have another 70 million mouths to feed by 2050, when the country’s population is expected to reach 220 million people. Current estimates put the population at around 150 million, based on 2001 census figures. But this could be a conservative figure, since statisticians may have underestimated growth since the last census. In March this year, Bangladesh began its fifth population census since independence to provide an accurate assessment of the population in 2011. Officials are a little nervous about what the new census will reveal, since population size serves as a denominator for economic and development measures such as the MDG indicators. The final results will not be known until December.

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