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Bangladesh among 20 worst countries for a child to fall sick

Forty years after independence, Bangladesh has come a long way, with economic growth averaging 6 per cent over the last two decades. Yet this week, the country has been listed as one of the 20 worst places in the world for a child to fall sick.

Under a new index drawn up by Save the Children, Bangladesh ranks 19th from bottom in a group of twenty countries where there are less than 3 health workers for every 1,000 people. According to the international charity, children in these countries are five times more likely to die than youngsters living in places higher up the list.

The index has been launched before this month’s United Nations (UN) General Assembly, when Save the Children will be highlighting how a shortage of health workers affects the chances of a child’s survival. The country rankings are based on three factors – how many health workers there are (including their reach and impact), the proportion of children receiving vaccinations and the rates of birth-attendance by a skilled professional.

Bangladesh has made huge progress in lowering child mortality rates. In 1990, 148 children under 5 died for every 1,000 live births. By 2009, this mortality rate had dropped drastically to just 52 children in every 1,000. And Bangladesh is on track to achieve its UN Millennium Development Goal of reducing child deaths by two thirds. A Save the Children spokesperson said it was therefore surprising to find the country ranked in the bottom 20 of the new index.

The reason is mainly due to the low rates of skilled birth-attendance in Bangladesh. According to the latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), only 18 per cent of births in the country are attended by a trained health professional. The country as a whole has just 40,000 nurses and midwifery workers, which equates to less than 3 trained professionals for every 10,000 Bangladeshis

Save the Children will be lobbying world leaders in two weeks time when they attend the UN’s annual meeting in New York. The charity wants more countries to commit to spending 15 per cent of their national budgets on healthcare and for governments to recruit more health workers. A spokesperson for Save the Children summed up the current crisis by saying “no mother should have to watch helplessly as her child grows sick and dies, simply because there is no one trained to help.”

Laurinda Luffman signature