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The Government of Bangladesh and UNICEF assess progress at mid-term of the Country Programme

Dhaka, 25 September 2008: The Government of Bangladesh and UNICEF today held the Mid-Term Review of the Country Programme of Cooperation for Bangladeshi Children and Women which covers the five-year period from 2006 to 2010. The overall aim of the programme is the progressive realization of children’s rights to survival, education, development, protection and participation. It also contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the country. The review was chaired by Mr. Md. Aminul Islam Bhuiyan, Secretary, Economic Relations Division (ERD) of the Ministry of Finance and included all line ministries involved in the joint cooperation programme. Mrs Frances Turner, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for South Asia, Mrs Renata Dessallien, UN Resident Coordinator and Mr. Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh also attended the meeting.

‘The Government of Bangladesh was among the first few nations to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child’, said Mr. Md. Aminul Islam Bhuiyan, Secretary, ERD. ‘We are committed to put children first for all our development strategies and interventions as our children are our future. The GoB-UNICEF Country Programme provides a wider scope to materialize this national commitment through joint collaboration and interventions.

The 2006-2010 Country Programme contains five main interventions dedicated to children’s rights, which includes: Health and Nutrition, Water and Environmental Sanitation, Education, Child Protection, Policy, advocacy and partnership. During the first half of the Country Programme, Bangladesh experienced two major floods and a cyclone. UNICEF’s response was immediate and relief was brought to children and women in affected areas. In particular, UNICEF took the lead in coordinating the water and sanitation cluster and was co-leader of the education cluster as agreed internationally.

‘The recent increase in prices of essential food commodities and the effects of climate change have created new challenges for Bangladesh, observed Carel de Rooy, UNICEF’s Representative in his opening remarks. ‘These along with the frequent natural calamities have pushed more people into greater vulnerability. UNICEF is committed to work closely with development partners and the Government on these issues during the remaining years of the Country Programme.’

The mid-term review meeting resulted in a fair assessment of the progress made, the constraints met and the way forward. At policy level, progress includes the current development of a National Neonatal Health Strategy and the launch of the National Strategy for Infant and Young Feeding. In the education sector, the Department of Primary Education adopted strategies for inclusive education that specifically address barriers encountered by girls, indigenous children, poor children and children with special needs. The Birth and Death Registration Act, which came into effect in 2006, represents a major step forward to ensure the registration of all children.

At implementation level, other progresses were noted such as:
• Full immunization coverage of one-year old children increased from 64% to 75% nationally from 2005 to 2007. In low-performing districts, the proportion of fully immunized children aged 12 months rose from 52% to 69%.
• Bangladesh has successfully eliminated Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus.
• Vitamin A supplementation programme is another success with 89% coverage of children aged 9 to 59 months.
• Access to sanitary latrines increased significantly between 2003 and 2006. However many of these latrines still do not match the recommended standard of ‘improved sanitation facilities’.
• A total of 254,000 children have been enrolled in early learning centres.
• Net enrolment rate in primary education increased from 87% to 91%.
• Birth registration for children and adults increased from 7% in 2005 to 40% in 2008.

The review, however, expressed concern about the high prevalence of malnutrition among children with 46% of children under five being underweight. Maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain high. Quality education was also identified as a challenge with about half of the children enrolled in schools dropping out before reaching grade 5. Child labour is a widespread phenomenon in Bangladesh with 13% of children aged 5 to 14 years engaged in child labour. Child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children are serious problems, which have not yet been fully addressed. Family care practices, which are important determinants of child development and well-being, are still inappropriate. In general, poverty was found as an underlying cause for low access to care, services and information.

Three important recommendations are emerging from the review:
(i) Achievement of better synergy in the 14 convergence districts in order to increase the impact of the programme interventions
(ii) Support to models that are sustainable and can be easily replicated and scaled up
(iii) Need to ensure equity in all programmes as marginalized groups are still excluded from the progress made toward the fulfilment of children’s rights in Bangladesh.

For more information, please contact:
• Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Chief, Communication and Information Section, Tel: 9336701-10, Ext: 209, Email:
• Arifa S. Sharmin, UNICEF Communication Specialist, Tel: 9336701-10 Ext:442, Email:



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