UNICEF in Bangladesh

Our timeline

1949

UNICEF sets up a field office in Bangkok with responsibilities over East Pakistan

1950

UNICEF opens its first office in Dhaka with two professional staff and a driver.

1950 - 1970

UNICEF works closely with the Secretariat of Health against tuberculosis (TB), smallpox, malaria, cholera. It works to develop maternal and child health services and train of health care providers.

Other programmes cover the provision of latrines, improvements to water supply and support for various education, training and livelihood development initiatives.

1970

A devastating cyclone hits coastal areas on 12 November, killing half a million people. Another 4.5 million lose their land, homes, fishing boats or livestock. UNICEF repairs and rebuilds more than 11,500 wells and provides 1,000 tonnes of rice and other relief supplies.

1971

Ten million people flee to India during the War of Liberation against Pakistan. UNICEF works with other UN agencies in Kolkata to provide shelter, food, sanitation supplies, safe water and cooking utensils to the refugees.

UNICEF supports supplementary food distribution for 650,000 children in the refugee camps.

On 1 August, George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh directs global attention at the unfolding humanitarian crisis and raises funds for UNICEF’s work with the refugees. The concert was the first of its kind and is recognised as the inspiration behind more recent humanitarian fundraising events. Album and film sales continue to raise awareness and money for the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.

Bangladesh wins independence on 16 December. The war leaves a ravaged economy and a deep scar in the nation's psyche.

1972–73

UNICEF contributes US$ 30.2 million to UN recovery operations in Bangladesh. Efforts focus on the distribution of vitamin-enriched, high-protein food supplements for children and the establishment of safe water sources.

1974

Bangladesh joins the UN on 17 September.

1977

UNICEF collaborates for the first time with the new Government of Bangladesh, under the Joint Government/UNICEF Advisory Group (JGUAG). The group provides continued assessment of the situation of women and children and suggests development programmes to address their rights.

1978

Bangladesh achieves a rate of one hand pump per 250 inhabitants, thanks in part to the 300,000 tubewells already sunk by UNICEF.

1979

With support from UNICEF, the government launches the national oral rehydration campaign. Developed in Bangladesh and initially used to treat refugee children suffering from cholera during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971, oral rehydration saline (ORS) is a mixture of water, salt and glucose in the correct proportions to treat diarrhoea.

The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) is officially launched on 7 April 1979 to vaccinate children against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, tuberculosis, measles and polio.

1984

UNICEF supports Grameen Bank to develop the Sixteen Decisions, under which poor women borrowing from the pioneering microfinance organisation promise to educate and care for themselves, their children and their community.

1985

UNICEF works with the government and local and international partners to expedite EPI campaign. In five years, the number of fully immunised children under the age of 1 jumped from 2.0 to 62 per cent.

1990

Bangladesh ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 26 January.

1992

Meena is born. Meena is a fictional nine-year-old girl who champions the rights of children in books, films, posters and radio plays across Bangladesh, and later throughout South Asia.

1993

Naturally-occurring arsenic is detected in groundwater, drastically reducing the number of people who have access to safe water.

UNICEF works with the government to begin testing tubewells for contamination and initiates a communication plan to mark all tested wells with red or green paint.

1995

Garment manufacturers and exporters sign a memorandum of understanding with UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) agreeing to eliminate child labour in the garment industries of Bangladesh.

1996

UNICEF and the government launch the IDEAL project: an initiative aimed at improving the quality of education in primary schools. The project targets over half of all primary schools in Bangladesh.

2006

To help prevent the deaths of 20,000 Bangladeshi children each year, UNICEF supports the world’s largest ever measles campaign.

Reaching 33.5 million children, the vaccination drive is also Bangladesh’s biggest public health initiative.

2007

Severe flooding and Cyclone Sidr affect more than 14 million people. By December, UNICEF provides over US$ 22 million in emergency supplies and relief assistance. Lessons learnt from similar floods in 1988 and 2004, and a cyclone in 1991 help mitigate the disaster and save thousands of lives.

2011

With a staff of more than 220 in Bangladesh, UNICEF contributes about US$ 40–50 million annually to Bangladesh’s development sector. UNICEF works in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh and other key partners.

2013

The Government of Bangladesh approves the Children Act 2013. It provides a comprehensive legal framework for prevention and response to abuse, violence, exploitation and justice for children. The law is based on the CRC and a child in Bangladesh is now identified as any person around the world below the age of 18 years.

Bangladesh launches a call to action to end prevent child deaths by 2035, saving the lives of 108,000 children under the age of 5 every year.

2015

Bangladesh achieves the Millennium Development Goal or MDG targets in reducing maternal and under-five mortality rates well ahead of its South Asian neighbours.

2016

The new UNICEF country programme (2017–2020) begins with strong focus on the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. UNICEF Bangladesh gets government approval of ownership of a plot of land that had been donated to the UN in 1996. UNICEF plans to construct UNICEF House on the plot in Agargaon, Dhaka.