Telemedicine In BangladeshBangladesh, a South Asian country known for its river deltas and coastal regions, has faced rapid urbanization and environmental degradation due to large-scale flooding across the country. Increasing population density and environmental erosion have made many Bangladeshis the subjects of devastating poverty. In 2018, The World Bank reported that, while the situation in Bangladesh has drastically improved since the 1990s, 22 million people still fall below the poverty line. For many, this means their health is in jeopardy, health care education suffers compromise and access to medical services is nearly impossible.

Today, there is still a stigma surrounding the need for health care in certain rural regions of Bangladesh. One common saying is “rog pushai rakha.” In Bengali, the phrase translates to “stockpiling their diseases.” This refers to the lack of importance Bangladeshis have placed on their health care. In some cases, portrayals still show medicine as inaccessible and unnecessary. This mindset can spell trouble for those living in rural Bangladesh where medicine was not always widely available.

However, the emergence of new medical communication technology, known as telemedicine, is changing the outlook for health care in Bangladesh.

What Telemedicine is and How it Works

Telemedicine, sometimes called telehealth, is “a direct line — whether it’s a phone call, video chat or text message — to a physician or care provider via telecommunication.” It is a rapidly growing technology in the health care field around the world as it ensures easier access to those who may not otherwise receive medical care.

While the technology initially focused on elderly patients and those with disabilities, telemedicine is now helping people in countries with critical health care gaps caused by geography, limited numbers of physicians and financial restraints.

Telemedicine in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, access to health care largely concentrates in urban areas. This means there is a large gap in health care between rural and urban areas. Seventy percent of Bangladeshis live in rural areas, according to the World Health Organization.

Telemedicine in Bangladesh is a recent advancement. In 1999, it first entered rural regions of Bangladesh that did not have easy access to medical care. While the initial care lacked critical technology infrastructure, the recent expansion of bandwidths and networks into rural areas has made telemedicine more accessible for Bangladeshis.

Moreover, the Bangladeshi government has taken steps to facilitate health care needs by establishing new telemedicine programs. In 2001, the government established a cooperative known as the Bangladesh Telemedicine Association to promote telemedicine organizations. In 2003, the Sustainable Development Network Program emerged to promote cooperation between different providers.

A boat delivers laptops, medical tools and prescription printing devices each week to rural areas in Bangladesh. Individuals in need of care can travel to temporary medical centers where they receive access to physician care through the internet. These checkups are similar to checkups that established medical centers offer where patients can describe their condition, ask questions and obtain prescription drugs.

Telemedicine in Bangladesh is beneficial for more than sickness. This new technology also allows individuals to ask questions concerning their personal development, their child’s development and their nutritional needs. For many, this is a life-changing experience that not only helps with illness but also expands the general knowledge and understanding of people who did not previously have access to such education.

Nonprofits Helping the Cause

The introduction of telemedicine in Bangladesh would not be possible without local cooperation. One non-governmental organization (NGO) helping the cause is Friendship Bangladesh. Friendship Bangladesh, an NGO started in 1994, emerged to “help poor people in remote and unaddressed communities in Bangladesh.” Its aid includes a variety of programs, including those focused on education, economic development, disaster management, citizenship and cultural preservation. The organization’s special emphasis on health care has led to the emergence of telehealth solutions.

The development of mHealth, an app that can diagnose up to 32 common illnesses, and SATMED, a satellite service that allows local NGOs to share patient information using the internet, are innovative solutions to the health care problems in Bangladesh. These programs, developed by Friendship Bangladesh, have dramatically increased access and improved the efficiency of health care.

In 2017, Friendship Bangladesh provided a total of 4.2 million people with access to Friendship’s health care, including 48,000 who garnered access to the mHealth app. Friendship also employed three floating hospitals with access to satellite communication and conducted 1,392 nutrition demonstrations to help educate people on nutritional needs.

In 2020, Friendship aims to increase the number of satellite clinic days, strengthen the nutritional demonstration sessions and maintain the current floating hospitals.

The Future of Medicine in Bangladesh

Most recently, in 2018, a new telemedicine technology entered Bangladesh. Teledaktar (TD) is the newest virtual medical service that is helping expand access to medical care, according to  NPR. By creating makeshift medical centers in rural regions with little access to health care, TD is further closing the gap between doctors and patients in the most rural areas of the country.

Despite the challenges in Bangladesh, access to adequate health care is possible. The inclusion of telemedicine into common health care practices is one development in improving health care. An increase in trained physicians, along with an increase in rural health facilities, are among the recent successes to Bangladeshi health care. Moreover, the government initiation of a stakeholder dialogue with the U.N. Human Resource for Health (HRH) has created more effective dialogues that advocate for the expansion of health care across the country. With new programs, new partners and new technologies, the future of medicine in Bangladesh is hopeful.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about sanitation in BangladeshBangladesh, a diverse and culturally rich nation located in South Asia, is loved for its beautiful green scenery and numerous waterways. With sound economic policies and political reforms, Bangladesh has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth has helped lift the majority of the population out of poverty. Millions are now able to enjoy fundamental living necessities such as access to clean water and sanitation that were not available before. However, there is still room for improvement. Here are the top 10 facts about sanitation in Bangladesh.

10 facts about sanitation in Bangladesh

  1. Contaminated water: Over 40 percent of all improved water sources in Bangladesh are contaminated with E. coli which could cause diarrhea, dysentery or cholera. Arsenic was also found in Bangladeshi groundwater, which could lead to cancers and social stigma. About 12.4 percent of the population was exposed to arsenic-affected water in 2012, a significant improvement from 26.6 percent in 2000. However, with 19.4 million people drinking this unsafe water, Bangladesh remains the country with the largest proportion of people exposed to arsenic contamination globally.
  2. Open defecation: Bangladesh has made incredible progress in reducing the practice of open defecation. Through the implementation of innovative behavior change campaigns and the construction of new latrine facilities, the rate of open defecation in the population declined from 34 percent in 1990 to only 1 percent in 2015.
  3. Menstrual hygiene: The taboo around menstrual health is prevalent in Bangladesh, emerging from an absence of proper awareness and knowledge. Only 36 percent of adolescent girls know about menstruation when it first occurs, and only 10 percent use sanitary pads during their periods. Additionally, only 22 percent of schools have separate toilet facilities for girls. This lack of knowledge and proper menstrual hygiene management directly impacts the education and well-being of Bangladeshi girls. About 40 percent of girls miss three days of school during menstruation, and nearly one out of three adolescent girls said that menstruation affects their school performance.
  4. Hygienic behavior: A 2013 UNICEF survey found that only 59.1 percent of the population wash their hands with water and soap. Another survey in 2014 reveals that only 40 percent of households have water and soap available for handwashing, compared to only 16 percent of the poorest households. The South Asia WASH Results Programme has helped to improve hygiene practices by teaching hygiene habits to over 4.1 million primary school children from 2014 to 2018.
  5. Economic cost: Inadequate sanitation and hygiene cost Bangladesh an estimate of $4.23 billion, which is 6.3 percent of the GDP. The largest contributors to this economic impact are health-related losses, which account for 84 percent of the impact, or 5.3 percent of the nation’s GDP. Costs of accessing cleaner water, welfare and time losses, productivity losses also contribute to the high economic impact.
  6. Access to hygienic toilets and sanitation facilities: The rate of sanitation coverage is only 61 percent, growing at 1.1 percent annually. More than 40 percent of all latrines in Bangladesh is still unimproved, and the sanitation facilities for children with disabilities are still lacking. Bangladesh is working towards increasing access to hygienic sanitation facilities with several projects supported by the World Bank, focusing on low-income and vulnerable communities.
  7. Disparities between different regions and households: UNICEF found that only 31.6 percent of people in Sylhet Division have access to E. coli-free water, comparing to 71.8 percent in Rangpur Division. Poor households are less likely to have drinking water on their premises, and thus have to spend more time collecting water from outside sources. They are also 10 times more likely to use unimproved sanitation than the rich.
  8. Universal access to improved water sources: 98 percent of the Bangladeshi population now has drinking water from technologically improved sources. This is incredible progress since only 79 percent of people had such access in 1990. About 83 percent of the urban population and 71.9 percent of the rural population had improved water sources available on their premises.
  9. Floods: Bangladesh is prone to flooding and water levels could remain high for months, which could damage freshwater ponds and shallow wells. Toilets also tend to overflow and become unusable due to the floods, contaminating water sources and exposing people to dangerous diseases. Since 2011, a local NGO called Uttaran has helped to construct improved toilet facilities that could survive floods and wells that provided safe water that benefited more than 2,000 people in these vulnerable communities.
  10. Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS): The successful innovative approach from Bangladesh has since become an established approach used in many other developing countries to improve hygiene and sanitation. The approach aims to eradicate open defecation with the combination of community pressure and NGO support. It also focuses on personal responsibilities to finance one’s own toilets without imposing external designs and promote low-cost homemade toilets using local materials, which makes toilets a lot more accessible and affordable even to the poorest population. This approach has enabled hundreds of rural villages to reach 100 percent sanitation coverage in less than a year.

With the continuing efforts of the government and the aid from different NGOs, Bangladesh has achieved considerable progress in sanitation developments. Though many challenges still remain, Bangladesh is committed and making great strides to progress towards clean water, sanitation and hygiene for all.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

HYDRO IndustriesWater is essential to life, but unfortunately, there are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. Pollution, poverty and weak infrastructure are often the causes of a lack of clean water. The world’s poor population has often been obligated to travel great distances in order to get clean water. Dirty water often leads to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease. Thousands die each year from diseases due to a lack of clean water. Fortunately, a company called HYDRO Industries has a new way to provide water to those in need all over the world.

HYDRO Industries

HYDRO Industries is partnering with BRAC, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the world, to bring clean water to Bangladesh. BRAC was founded in Bangladesh, so this is their way of giving back to the community. In Bangladesh, five million people lack access to safe water, and 85 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. The current setup is not working well enough, so a new way to provide water is needed. The two organizations plan to begin their operation in Bangladesh in the spring of 2020.

HYDRO Industries will provide its products and BRAC will use its connections with local communities to establish the water treatment plants. The project aims to help around 25,000 people in the first phase and then continue to improve their product and increase the number of people they are serving. HYDRO hopes to expand all over Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal and India.

How Important is Clean Water?

  • Almost 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  • Two billion people don’t have a good toilet to use
  • A child under five dies every two minutes because of dirty water and poor toilets
  • Every minute a newborn dies because of infections from an unsanitary environment and unsafe water
  • For every $1 invested in clean water, there is a $4 increase in productivity
  • Every day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water
  • Almost 300,000 children under age five die annually from diarrheal diseases

The world’s poor population sometimes has to spend hours looking for clean water. If the water is no longer a worry, they will have more time to be productive and focus on their economy. Clean water also reduces the likelihood of disease. Better health and productivity can result in a better community in the world’s poorest places.

What Does HYDRO Do?

HYDRO is a Welsh tech company that creates innovative water treatment plants that can treat water and raise it to drinking standards. The company also uniquely treats the water. Instead of using chemicals to purify water, they use electric power, which makes the entire process more sustainable and effective than chemical-based purification.

Bangladesh is not the first place that HYDRO is planning on helping. In fact, the organization has already provided clean water to multiple poverty-stricken areas around the world. In 2016, HYDRO provided clean water for 82 East African villages. There the water treatment plants provided locals with 8.5 million liters of water every day.

Finding a new way to provide water to those in need is important to work. HYDRO Industries has an innovative method that could potentially help millions of people around the world. Using electric power, HYDRO’s water treatment units can provide water at levels above western standards. Clean water is such an immense benefit to people all over the world. Clean water helps people fight disease and death. Providing a consistent and clean source of water close to people’s homes makes communities more productive and provides a better chance of reducing poverty.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in BangladeshBangladesh, a diverse and culturally rich nation located in South Asia, is known for its beautiful green scenery and numerous waterways. It is currently the 8th most populous country worldwide. When it first became an independent country in 1971, Bangladesh was incredibly poor with 82 percent of the population living below the extreme poverty line. At the time, the country experienced a negative rate of 14 percent; political tensions were high and the nation was continuously devastated by famine and flood. Today, the situation is much different.

Growth on Many Fronts

Bangladesh now has an average economic growth rate of 8 percent, well above the regional average growth rate of 5.5 percent. In the first quarter of 2019, Bangladesh was the 7th fastest growing economy in the world, with a real GDP growth rate of 7.4 percent. Notably, between 2008 and 2017, per capita income in Bangladesh has increased by 149 percent helping to boost human development indicators for the country.

Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth has raised a significant portion out of the population out of poverty. The poverty rate of Bangladesh fell from 48.9 percent in 2000 to 24.3 percent in 2016 and the proportion of employed workers living in extreme poverty dropped from 73.5 percent in 2010 to 14.8 percent in 2016.

Contributors to Economic Growth in Bangladesh

With a combination of progressive social policies and economic reforms, Bangladesh has been able to attract a large number of foreign investment and find new markets, resulting in a thriving economy despite the world’s stagnating state.

Bangladesh’s economic liberalization, successful adaptation and modernization policies have allowed the country to compete in the global market place and attract foreign investors. Net foreign direct investment rose by 42.9 percent, concentrating on the power, food and textile sectors.

The Garment Industry

The success of the garment industry is one contributor to strong economic growth in Bangladesh, accounting for 84.2 percent of exports in the country. Growth in garment exports increased from 8.8 percent to 11.5 percent in 2018, reflecting strong demand from the U.S. and newer markets like Canada, Japan, India, China and Korea.

Despite continued success in the garment sector, it is risky to rely on a single industry for the majority of exports. Bangladesh is aiming to diversify its export basket, increasing competitiveness in other sectors as well. The Export Competitiveness for Jobs project, supported by World Bank Group, is an example of the effort Bangladesh’s government is taking to increase diversity in exports. 

Empowering Women

Additionally, Bangladesh has taken serious steps to empower women with efforts from non-governmental organizations such as Grameen and BRAC as well as the government to educate girls and give women a greater voice in both households and society. These efforts have helped to improve children’s health and education, which are key indicators of economic development. Additionally, the authority promotes lending to small and medium-sized enterprises as well as women entrepreneurs, introducing policies that promote economic inclusion, creating more active transactions and other economic activities.

Moving Forward with a Vision

Since 1975, Bangladesh has been listed by the U.N. as one of the least developed countries (LDCs) but has recently met the criteria to graduate from that status by 2024, which is a sign indicating the country’s capability to enable sustainable development. The government has its own agenda to become a middle-income country by 2021, celebrating the nation’s 50th birthday.

Thanks to sound economic policies, rapid modernization and progressive demographic development, Bangladesh is now able to build an economy that can successfully thrive in a volatile world. With the right policies and timely actions, Bangladesh is on the trajectory to achieve its “Vision 2021”.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

How Bangladesh Reduced Poverty
Bangladesh is a country of 159 million people in the Bay of Bengal next to India. Bangladesh struggled with poverty and economic problems after gaining its independence in 1971. However, the country has recently seen economic growth along with a steady decline in poverty. How Bangladesh reduced poverty holds lessons for other countries and one can attribute it to a variety of factors.

Investing in Public Services

In the past six years, Bangladesh has lifted 8 million people out of poverty. The rate of extreme poverty fell from 17 percent to 13 percent, and the overall poverty rate declined from more than 31 percent to 24 percent. Bangladesh has also made great strides in education, health, infrastructure and energy. Primary school enrollment rates have risen from 80 percent in 2000 to more than 90 percent in 2015, and secondary school enrollment has increased from 45 percent in 2000 to 62 percent in 2015. This jump in education heralds a bright future ahead as Bangladesh invests in its youth.

In terms of health care, the country has achieved an amazing 40 percent decrease in maternal mortality rates, as well as ensuring that 63 percent of pregnant women received maternity care from a trained medical professional in 2015, up from 53 percent in 2007. Bangladesh has also improved its infrastructure by building new roads and water pipelines. People now have better access to schools, health facilities and workplaces, and the pipelines have increased access to drinkable water in rural areas. Lastly, Bangladesh has added over 2,000 megawatts of energy to the national grid and provided solar energy capabilities to over four million households in remote areas. These improvements help households go about daily activities and provide more consistent access to the internet for individuals and businesses. All of these improvements help explain how Bangladesh reduced poverty and may serve as an example for other countries.

Implementing Special Economic Zones

Bangladesh reduced poverty and increased its GDP and living standards thanks to the government’s decisions and international aid. The creation of special economic zones that encourage foreign investment was one major factor in Bangladesh’s economic growth. These zones ensure legal protection and fiscal incentives for investors and allow freer movement of goods and services. These policies make these zones in Bangladesh a safe and profitable place for foreign companies to invest.

Currently, garments and textiles are Bangladesh’s biggest industries, but it is expanding into technology as well thanks to these economic zones. For example, Bangladesh exported 12 industrial robots to South Korea in 2018. While Bangladesh currently has 12 special economic zones, there are plans to create 100 special economic zones and technology hubs to foster future growth. This investment creates jobs and brings money into the economy. Bangladesh is currently trying to direct that new money into new businesses and build the country’s service industries.

The International Development Association

In addition to government policy, the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) were also crucial to Bangladesh’s improving fortunes. Many of the country’s achievements in infrastructure, health, energy and education have come with the help of IDA financing. The IDA has given Bangladesh over $28 billion in grants and interest-free credit. This funding has been crucial to the country’s recent accomplishments. The combination of IDA funding and special economic zones has given Bangladesh the jobs and infrastructure needed to pull themselves out of poverty. International aid has been a crucial factor in Bangladesh’s development.

Bangladesh has made remarkable strides in both economic growth and quality of life. Economic policies that encourage foreign investment and help from the IDA both help explain how Bangladesh reduced poverty in the last decade.

– Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that borders Myanmar, India, Nepal and Bhutan. In 2019, the country’s estimated population was about 163 million people. Additionally, the country’s economy has shown an increase in exports and remittances in 2019. According to the World Bank, the country’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half but people still consider it a developing nation. The country’s under-five mortality rate has declined in recent years as well as its maternal mortality rate. There has been an increase in malnourished children and lung diseases, however. There has also been an increase in health and safety in workplaces. Organizations both in the country and worldwide are helping to increase health care in Bangladesh.

5 Organizations Improving Health Care in Bangladesh

  1. World Health Organization (WHO): Based in Switzerland, WHO is a United Nations agency that focuses on international public health. In Bangladesh, the company provides medical aid such as vaccinations, medical research and alerts on medical outbreaks and emergencies. It also helps develop health policies, as well as monitor illness and disease trends in an attempt to prevent outbreaks. By offering these resources, the World Health Organization is improving Bangladesh’s health faster than before, which the organization’s research shows. The organization’s research shows that in 2018, 94 percent of new or relapse Tuberculosis cases received treatment, compared to around 60 percent in 2008. By introducing advanced medical techniques to the country, vaccinations and monitoring, WHO has been able to decrease the number of individuals who die from the illness.

  2. Bangladesh Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE): Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labor and Employment runs this organization and is responsible for the safety of factories, workplaces and their employees. Its job is to ensure the welfare, safety and health of all workers in Bangladesh. It ensures this by enforcing the country’s labor laws, as well as constantly updating policies to ensure employee safety. The organization has three departments including the Labor Department, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments and the Department of Trade Union Registration. By breaking the organization into smaller departments, workplace health and safety has improved, as well as the number of businesses in the country. This increases jobs as well as job security because there is less fear of injury or illness from the workplace.

  1. Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh: The World Health Organization has established the Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh, which is a volunteer-based organization. HR experts, researchers, scientists, clinicians, nurses, sociologists and other health science experts lead this group. The goal of the group is to conduct research and provide education that will develop the Bangladesh health in both society and health care systems. The organization aims to improve health care access to Bangladesh citizens by making health care more affordable and easily accessible for individuals below the poverty line.

  1. World Lung Foundation: Established in 2004, the World Lung Foundation aims to increase global response to lung disease, an illness that kills around 10 million individuals annually. In 2017, lung disease made up 8.69 percent of the country’s deaths, which equals up to 68,462 people. The organization is decreasing the number by providing programs in Bangladesh, as well as emphasizing tobacco control, the negative effects of air pollution and how lung disease leads to illnesses such as Tuberculosis and acute respiratory infections. By educating Bangladesh citizens, Tuberculosis, maternal and infant mortality rates have dropped.

  1. USAID: A U.S. based agency, USAID has set up programs to help improve health and nutrition in Bangladesh. Because of this, the organization has helped decrease the under-five mortality rates, as well as maternal mortality rates. USAID has also expanded the use of family planning, improved and integrated health systems into Bangladesh, as well as strengthen the health care system and government. This leads to overall better access to health care, healthcare policies and better health practices.

Bangladesh’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half, but the country’s population has been rising. With an undesirable health care system, organizations such as WHO and USAID have helped the country’s overall health improve, and has also decreased mortality rates. The DIFE and Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh have ensured the safety and health of individuals in the workplace and in society. Also, organizations such as The World Lung Foundation bring awareness to some of the leading mortality rates.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

 

Sanitation in Rohingya Refugee CampsMass persecution and forced deportation of the stateless Rohingya people in Myanmar have created over 1 million homeless refugees in Southeastern Asia. Historically facing discrimination, the Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in western Myanmar (formerly Burma). They have been regarded as stateless, meaning without citizenship or any rights associated with it, since 1982, and the recent Buddhist nationalist movement has led to increased religious tension. They have mainly fled to Bangladesh, many of them have no choice but to leave Myanmar and enter Bangladesh illegally. This is partly due to their lack of freedom under the Myanmarese government’s labeling of stateless.

Sanitation and Water Issues

The largest refugee camp area in Bangladesh is Cox’s Bazar, where over 900,000 Rohingya people have taken up residence across 27 different locations. The area, not designed to hold this many people for so long, faces extreme overcrowding. The overcrowding is so dire, Bangladesh has been searching for ways to send back the refugees. It has been difficult for many to have adequate sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps. There has even been a worry that existing wells have been constructed too close to the latrines. If this is the case, mass disease outbreaks could occur without sanitation improvements. However, organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Oxfam have been working to improve these conditions.

Cox’s Bazar is very susceptible to long dry seasons, from November to April or even May. Long dry seasons lead to the main water reservoirs that the refugees use for their water drying up. Shallow tube wells that some organizations have constructed are also very susceptible to drying. The dry season has been much worse recently due to the climate changes associated with El Niño. To make matters worse, the rain has come only in dramatic cyclones. To ensure sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps, including clean water access and improve sanitation, organizations developed and implemented deep-well tubes.

Deep tube wells penetrate the ground past surface-level aquifers and reach the more stable water table beneath. These wells allow for more consistent water access. The water is then piped up to above-ground tanks with solar energy, where it can be monitored and the quality of water can be maintained at safe levels. Constructed in many strategically placed areas of Cox’s Bazar, there are over 20,000 shallow and deep tube wells in place. With the rapid construction of these wells, the UNHCR and Bangladeshi government have reached the goal of 20 liters per person every day.

Rohingya Women and Issues of Safety

The issue of proper latrine construction and maintenance has also been an issue that plagues the Rohingya refugees, particularly women. Many women and girls do not feel safe using the latrines, or even walking to them. They are typically in very difficult-to-reach areas of the camps. Refugees often must walk down steep, muddy slopes to reach the toilets and showers. Other than the trek, the latrines typically have no roofs or doors, and sometimes have little to no walls. In an area with hundreds of thousands of people, a third of Rohingya women did not feel safe taking a shower or using the toilet, according to a study conducted by Oxfam in 2018.

Refugee women need to feel safe and comfortable. Oxfam has been working with the women to design new latrines. These efforts also help women become more involved in the decision-making processes in the camps. The newly designed latrines have a full four walls, as well as a door, a sink and a stall. By involving more women in infrastructure projects such as these, they become more empowered and eager to participate in decision-making processes. This creates a lasting effect, especially in the younger Rohingya generations, that ensures greater stability among gender equalities in a place where women are largely left out of critical decision discussions.

The Future of Rohingya Refugees

The number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is higher than ever. But these refugees have seen major improvements through the engaging and effective efforts from many humanitarian organizations, both governmental and non-governmental. While there are still challenges to overcome, continued improvements in water access means improved sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps and clean water for refugees. Oxfam works to provide upgraded latrines and toilet sanitation for better privacy and safety for women and children. In addition, the construction of thousands of deep-tube wells ensures that no disease outbreaks will take place on account of contamination from the toilets.

While the situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh remains tumultuous, those affected experience rapid developments in their living conditions. More refugees are likely to enter Cox’s Bazar, but sustained support from the international community ensures that more refugees than ever are able to have improved sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Milk and Infant Nutrition 

Breastmilk possesses invaluable qualities that nourish, nurture and protect infant health. Most people are aware that the properties of breast milk help to fight against infections in infants. However, it is lesser-known that breastfeeding stimulates hormone responses that establish bonds crucial to healthy emotional development. There is a general lack of awareness surrounding the global inequalities of breast milk, particularly in nutrient quality and status. Society perpetuates the cycle of poverty when they remain naive of the issues affecting poor women.

Not only is the nutritional value of breast milk unequal across nations, but women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by poverty and malnutrition. This further hinders the production of nutrient-rich human milk in low-income areas. Women are also less likely to receive health and nutrition education than men. Despite the fact that women are natural suppliers of infant nutrition, they forfeit nutritional intake under the given circumstances.

Women’s issues in developing nations also face a disparity in the quantity of data. Lindsay Allen, a scientist who studies human milk and micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries, addresses this issue with the MILQ Project. She emphasizes that understanding differences in human milk condition is key in bridging the human milk and infant nutrition gap.

The MILQ Project in a Nutshell

To study the human milk quality of women in developing countries, Allen collected samples from well-nourished lactating mothers in Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark and The Gambia. With these reference values, she gained a better understanding of the quality of breast milk concerning maternal nutrient intake and infant status. Allen used a consistent frame of reference for extracting research (from the time of delivery until nearly 9 months postpartum) to increase the accuracy of results. She found that there is considerable variance in micronutrient value in breast milk, an issue that remains a misconception among common social ideology.

More specifically, the concentration of thiamin in breast milk and infant status was found to be closely linked to maternal intake. Maternal deficiencies are likely the cause of correlating infant deficiencies, but with supplementation, thiamin levels and infant status were able to adjust accordingly. Research shows that vitamin B6 concentration in infants is also strongly linked to breast milk amounts and maternal status. Additionally, supplementation also improves human milk concentration in a short amount of time.

Sociocultural Norms Leave Women’s Issues Unattended

In addition to the limited evidence base for human milk and infant nutrition, there is also an extreme lack of resources when it comes to nutritional recommendations for lactating mothers. The only mentioning of nutritional lactation support given by the World Health Organization (WHO) was in 2016. The WHO asserts that postpartum women may be prescribed supplementation of iron and potentially folic acid to reduce the risk of anemia for areas in which it is considered a public health concern.

Regarding iron deficiency statistics, the WHO states that “data indicates that while iodine status has improved among pregnant and lactating women in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, there has been little progress in the African region.” Researchers are learning that lactation nutrition goes beyond iron and folic acid. Studies like the MILQ Project are progressive steps towards bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

Breast Milk Goes Beyond Nutrition

The biochemical correspondence that takes place between a mother and her infant is a complicated interaction. The recent developments have made it possible to explore the molecular chemical structure of breast milk and infant nutrition. Various other health and therapeutic benefits that extend beyond its nutritive assets can now be validated through research. Infants that receive breast milk of optimal nutritional quality gain access to profound benefits. Areas where infants face micronutrient deficiencies may encounter more of a struggle. This creates a gap between the nursing mother and her infant in terms of the health benefits, as well as their biochemical interaction. Nursing, along with skin to skin contact, allows both mother and baby to produce oxytocin, a hormone that triggers other positive chemical reactions in the brain and is essential in forming bonds.

Recent improvements in methodology have allowed for the study of the chemical nature of breast milk. However, it is still not surprising that few studies have been carried out on this subject. These scientific advancements can aid in developing strategies surrounding nutrition, healthy feeding practices and therapeutic methodologies for infants. These societal advancements will further assist in bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

In Allen’s MILQ Study, vitamin concentrations in breast milk in developing areas were considered insufficient to obtain adequate infant status. Nutrient deficient mothers are not able to provide all of the necessary nutrients and micronutrients to their infants. The review shows that vitamin concentration levels are often less than half of optimal levels in comparison to the U.S. When it comes to human milk and infant nutrition, there is a global and gendered gap limiting the world’s understanding of the inequalities of human milk.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr
 

 

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Bangladesh  
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that faces many hardships due to poverty. Many residents are struggling to survive, and in turn, crime follows. A crime like human trafficking is detrimental to Bangladesh and the millions of victims it affects. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh to broaden the scope of what effects poverty has on human trafficking.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh is a hub for trafficking. The geography of Bangladesh plays a major role in its human trafficking issues. It is located near the Gulf region that links to South Asia. Traffickers transport people on boats to one of the 20 specific drop-off zones in any of the 16 districts in the area. Traffickers could also transport victims to many other South-East Asian countries. There were around 25,000 trafficking victims from January to April 2015 and the drop-off zones were in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Teknaf and Ukhia. Bangladesh’s Coast Guard also reported the rescue of 116 people between the ages of 16 and 25 from the Bay of Bengal in June 2015. Using boats as the main vessels of transportation started in 2003 and caused an increase in human trafficking.
  2. Limited available jobs can lead to vulnerability. Bangladesh is not only a hub because of its geography, but also its limited jobs and resources. Someone can easily become deceived into becoming a human trafficking victim because they would like to obtain a job. The unemployment rate is 4.30 percent with an average salary of $60 a month. There are 27 million in Bangladesh facing extreme poverty and 31 percent living in chronic poverty in less developed areas. Within these circumstances, people in poverty to this degree are willing to take any job opportunities they can find. Human traffickers use this to their advantage and lure unknowing people into job scams; the traffickers promise a good career in another country, but in reality, they will use desperate people for any number of torture, prostitution and labor schemes. Giving way to more economic growth would reduce the number of people who fall victim to human trafficking substantially.
  3. Women are especially prone to human trafficking. Among the 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh is that women make up the most trafficking victims and they have little protection. Reports determined that Pakistan was a transit location for two million women and that Cox’s Bazar had trafficked 3,500 young girls in a matter of 10 years. Women are susceptible to forced prostitution and face abuse, rape and possibly murder. Traffickers traffick 400 women a month in Bangladesh. This trafficking has become a larger-scale operation and around 200,000 women, some as young as 9, have gone to different countries unwillingly.
  4. Sex trafficking is a rising form of human trafficking. There are different forms of trafficking and sex trafficking is one of the most profitable. This kind of trafficking makes up for half of all trafficking profit and only accounts for 5 percent of victims. The victims often suffer in this industry for years and it becomes a lifestyle. Since prostitution became legal in 2000, workers receive little protection. An estimated total of 100,000 women and young girls are working as prostitutes, but less than 10 percent are working voluntarily. Forced sex work is an issue affecting women and girls all over Bangladesh, but the country rarely criminalizes it. Out of 6,000 people that authorities arrest for sex trafficking-related crimes, only 25 people received a conviction.
  5. The BNWLA advocates for progress in women’s safety. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) is an organization that emerged to protect women. The BNWLA formed in 1979 focusing specifically on the legality of human trafficking. It advocates for new laws, fights for prevention and protection, and supports local woman lawyers to make a change. The BNWLA successfully advocated for a Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection Act) that eventually passed in 2010. This act was a huge feat and protected women and children against four kinds of abuse.
  6. Organized crime and gang violence tactics are ever-changing. When there is a large population of people living in a country where there is extreme poverty, organized crime is highly likely to occur. Gang leaders (better known as mastaans) are always looking for new ways to get some fast money. Manipulation of children to aid gangs in human trafficking is a tactic that is especially heartless but has shown to be successful. Organized crime involving children is becoming alarmingly popular; estimates determine that there are 1.7 million children with crime exposure crime and that number is rising. Mastaans take advantage of how vulnerable children are in poverty and use them merely as another means of profit. Legislation has made some progress to reduce the risk of children’s exposure to the life of organized crime or human trafficking with the New Children’s Act, but there is little consistency with enforcement.
  7. Lack of education is another factor in human trafficking. Education in Bangladesh lacks a proper structure for children 14-18. The dropout rate for that age group was 65 percent and over half of household heads do not have any education. Seventeen percent of these household heads were on the low end of literacy. Since it is not a requirement for children to attend school, they have to find ways to keep occupied. They do not have anyone closely watching them like children in school and it makes them vulnerable to human trafficking.
  8. Consequences and laws against trafficking are at a minimum. Bangladesh has made progress in its strides towards ending global poverty with the emergence of The Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act in 2012. While any progress is good, there are many gaps in the enforcement of legislation. In 2017, there were 778 reports of human trafficking with a single conviction. Numbers like these are astounding and show a huge lack of governmental support in ending human trafficking. Protection services in Bangladesh receive limited support as well; services for victims of human trafficking have proven to not thoroughly address the needs of the victim, nor do they include adult men at all. Major governmental reform is necessary to stop human trafficking.
  9. Local organizations are pushing for better treatment. The Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) is a woman-focused, local nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that aids survivors of human trafficking to start new lives. The goal for TMSS is to create businesses and jobs and give any extra support to those struggling to live in Bangladesh. TMSS has many departments within the organization including finance, events/training, market research and development.  Little access to health care is a huge issue that TMSS addresses with a growing number of immunizations, pre and post-natal care and overall education. From 2004-2009, tetanus immunizations in women aged 15-49 grew from just 335 to 1,231 women. The health education from 2004-2009 grew from 13,248 to 55,440. TMSS has been a huge benefit to Bangladesh by providing these potentially life-saving immunizations and education.
  10. The United Nations Global Initiative. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is reaching out to strengthen Bangladesh’s ability to fight trafficking on a legal and financial level. Mr. Syed Muazzem Ali, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, works with the UNODC regional office for South Asia. Mr. Ali notes that there have been tremendous amounts of progress in Bangladesh including improvements in life expectancy, total fertility rate and infant mortality rate. Human trafficking became a topic of interest for the UNODC in March 2007 with The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Within this initiative, the UNODC listed Bangladesh as a country especially in need of change against human trafficking. Through this initiate, countries like Bangladesh had to hold more accountability for human trafficking and acquire education on factors that aid trafficking.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh determine that it and the many forms it takes is a serious issue that puts the lives of men, women and children in grave danger. The life of extreme poverty in Bangladesh increases both the risk becoming a victim of human trafficking and becoming involved in organized crime. Weak consequences for trafficking clearly leads to little change, and governmental actions must happen to make these changes. Optimistically, organizations locally and internationally (like TMSS and UNODC) are putting their best effort forward to give the people of Bangladesh access to health care, education and funding to end human trafficking.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr