Bangladesh is a lush South Asian country that some presume to be developing slowly along with other areas of South and Southeast Asia. In fact, the opposite is true: Bangladesh is a beautiful blueprint for how to build a country and lift citizens out of poverty. Its GDP has grown the most out of any country in the last 10 years, and it has cut the number of people living below the national poverty line in half from 2000 to 2016. While it is an amazing success story, 35 million people are still living below the poverty line and the country must continue to use an arsenal of poverty-fighting initiatives to eliminate poverty in Bangladesh. Here are four ways Bangladesh is combating poverty.
Fighting for Breath
In the 1970s, with help from The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), Bangladesh slashed child mortality. By identifying diarrhea as the leading cause of child deaths and then widely administering Oral Rehydration therapy, it helped reduce the death rate from 180 in 1,000 to 53 in 1,000 by 2011.
However, child mortality has continued in Bangladesh, and Pneumonia is a major killer, involved in one in five child deaths. Fighting for Breath is a global initiative that UNICEF spearheaded to eliminate pneumonia deaths in Bangladesh. By working to get Bangladesh up to global health standards (in terms of government spending and quality of care) as well as targeting underlying causes such as poor drinking water and sanitation, Fighting for Breath saves lives and stops child mortality and poverty.
As mentioned above, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee is a global NGO now operating as simply BRAC. Since its masterful health initiative in the 70s, it pioneered the Graduation Program in Bangladesh, which has four goals: meeting basic needs, income generation, social empowerment and financial support and savings. As of 2022, it has used this model to help 2.1 million households out of extreme poverty in Bangladesh alone.
BRAC operates under the philosophy that “people should be the subject, not the object of development programs.” Those ideals have helped them combat poverty in Bangladesh and across the globe.
A key pillar in reducing global poverty is widespread education, and Bangladesh is no stranger to this facet. Within a decade, Bangladesh has made incredible strides in education. An astounding 98% of elementary-aged children are receiving formal education. Also, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “The country has achieved…gender parity in equal access to education.”
Although Bangladesh still struggles with equitable education for minority populations, there are USAID programs in place to tackle this issue. A chief aim is to promote awareness for minorities and people with disabilities. USAID further fought poverty with education by creating 100 classroom-based libraries in 2022.
How Bangladesh is Combating Poverty With a Booming Economy
A major facet that has Bangladesh on pace to exit the U.N.’s Least Developed Countries List by 2026 is its expanding economy. A strong garment and textile industry and a growing energy sector have uplifted people from poverty. Textiles comprise 80% of the country’s exports and employ 4 million people. Additionally, 100% of Bangladesh’s population has access to electricity. Agriculture has also been a backbone to alleviating poverty, reducing the poverty rate by almost 70% within five years. Support from the World Bank to modernize 1.8 million agricultural houses also displays how a growing Bangladesh has mitigated poverty. The economy did take substantial hits from the COVID-19 pandemic, but its strong economy and fast-growing sectors have been pillars of making a difference.
Looking forward, there are still many steps to eliminate poverty besides the other efforts Bangladesh is combating poverty with, but the country paints a resilient success story in how to present a continued effort to reduce poverty.
– Aditya Arora