Bangladesh historically has had higher rates of child mortality than more developed countries around the world. According to data from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, the country had an under-five mortality rate of 264 per 1,000 live births in 1960, which was higher than the worldwide average of 183. Bangladesh’s child mortality rate decreased to 144 per 1,000 live births in 1990, which was a substantial reduction but was still a troubling number.
This isn’t really surprising since many Bangladeshi families live in rural areas and don’t have easy access to potable water, good sanitation and hygiene, vaccinations, and medical care. The country’s poverty level also contributes to its higher mortality rate. Poor families usually have more malnourished children due to the lack of money to buy nutritious food, and they often don’t have the funds to take their children to the doctor when they get sick.
Causes of Child Mortality
Several factors contribute to Bangladesh’s high child mortality rate. One of these is malnutrition which, as mentioned above, is a direct result of poverty. Another factor is infections, which are usually brought about by poor hygiene and sanitation and the lack of knowledge about good healthcare practices. Infections are exacerbated by the fact that parents cannot bring their sick children to clinics and hospitals right away because of the lack of money and the long distance they have to trek.
The problem with malnutrition and infections is that they usually come hand in hand. Malnourished children are more susceptible to catching bacteria and viruses, and their bodies don’t have the strength to fight both acute and chronic infections. The lack of vaccination also means that common childhood infections (such as measles) can easily spread from one child to another.
Current Status of Child Mortality
Despite the challenges it faces, Bangladesh has been able to drastically reduce its child mortality rate. As mentioned above, the country had a child mortality rate of 144 per 1,000 live births in 1990 but, in 2012, it was able to reduce the rate to 41 per 1,000 live births — an impressive 71 percent reduction. This means that the country was able to surpass the Millennium Development Goal for 2015, which was a 66 percent reduction in child mortality rate.
Bangladesh proved that this was not a momentary triumph since its child mortality rate reduced further in 2015. This is equivalent to a 75 percent reduction compared to the country’s child mortality rate in 1990.
Plans to Further Reduce Child Mortality
These improvements give Bangladeshi a cause to celebrate, but this doesn’t mean that they can be complacent. Despite the huge decrease in child mortality rate over the years, the country is still seeing a daily death rate of 16,000 in children under five years old. Almost half of these cases are caused by severe malnutrition, and 45 percent of these deaths occur in children less than 28 days old.
With these in mind, the Bangladesh government is taking steps to further reduce the child mortality rate. Increasing the coverage of measles vaccination is at the top of their list, particularly for children who are less than a year old, along with better implementation of the Expanded Program on Immunization (which covers diphtheria, poliomyelitis, and other diseases). Public health intervention programs that focus on nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding, and other aspects are also in place.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.