The situation of children

UNICEF in Bangladesh

Goals and commitments



© UNICEF/NYHQ1989-0479/Isaac
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn smiles as she takes a group of children for a ride in a rickshaw.

1949      UNICEF establishes a field office in Bangkok with responsibilities over East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

1951      UNICEF opens its first office in Dacca (now Dhaka), East Pakistan, comprising two professional staff and one driver.

Between 1950 and 1970, UNICEF works closely with the Secretariat of Health on tuberculosis vaccination, smallpox eradication, malaria prevention, cholera control, the development of maternal and child health services and the training 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 cyclone of devastating power hits costal areas on 12 November, killing half a million people. 4.5 million lose their land, homes, fishing boats or livestock. UNICEF repairs and rebuilds more than 11,500 wells and releases 1,000 tons 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 Calcutta 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 recognized 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 the UN’s 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 United Nations 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 tube-wells already sunk by UNICEF.

1979      With support from UNICEF, the Government of Bangladesh launches a national oral rehydration campaign. Developed in Bangladesh and initially used to treat refugee children suffering from cholera, oral rehydration solution (ORS) is a mixture of water, salt and glucose in the correct proportions to treat diarrhoea.

© UNICEF/NYHQ1992-0213/Noorani
Distribution of water purification tablets, Kutubdia.

1984      UNICEF supports Grameen Bank to develop the Sixteen Decisions, under which poor women borrowing from the pioneering microfinance organization promise to educate and care for themselves, their children and their community.

1985      UNICEF works with the Government and local and international partners to launch the expanded programme on immunization. In five years, the number of fully immunized children under the age of one will jump from 2 per cent to 62 per cent.

1990      Bangladesh ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child 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 the groundwater, drastically reducing the number of people who have access to safe water. UNICEF works with the Government to begin testing tube-wells 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 agreeing to eliminate child labour in the garment industry in Bangladesh.

1996      UNICEF and the Government launch the IDEAL project: an education initiative aiming to improve 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 largest ever public health initiative.

2007      Severe flooding and Cyclone Sidr  affect over 14 million people. By December, UNICEF provides over 22 million USD 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 approved 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 below the age of 18 years.

Bangladesh launched “Call for Action” for ending preventable child death by 2035 which will save 108,000 under five child deaths every year.



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