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Millennium Development Goals

Improving Maternal Health in Bangladesh

Anushay Hossain's picture

Editor’s Note: On Thursday, Sept. 16, the World Bank previewed renowned model and maternal health advocate Christy Turlington Burns' debut documentary, No Woman, No Cry, a powerful portrayal of at-risk pregnant women in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala and the United States. In this guest post, Anushay Hossain focuses on the progress that has been made in Bangladesh and what more must be done.

     Screening of "No Woman, No Cry" at the World Bank on Sept. 16th

Bangladesh stood out as the “development star” this month, when countries met at the United Nations in New York to reaffirm their commitments to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The 2015 deadline is looming on the goals, which include ending poverty, achieving gender equality, and improving world health.

Bangladesh’s achievements may be surprising to many, as it is one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries. But as Women’s eNews puts it, a “precocious, gender-sensitive civil society movement stirring in Bangladesh since the 1970s” is largely responsible for the progress the country has been making towards the MDGs. In particular, Bangladesh is doing a great job in poverty reduction, increasing girls’ enrollment in schools (though high dropout rates remain) and satisfying the 33 percent quota of women in Parliament.

All admirable accomplishments, considering Bangladesh is still recovering from 2007′s military coup. But the country is far from meeting the fifth UN development goal, which calls for a two-thirds reduction in maternal mortality rates by 2015.

Maternal deaths declined by almost 40 percent in Bangladesh from 1990 to 2006, but the UN reports that the progress has halted. An estimated 15,000 Bangladeshi women die every year from complications in childbirth.