Press Release

Putting women’s health at the center of the development agenda

14 May 2016
Ms Rakiatou Kaffa Jackou, Minister of Population, Niger, Sambel Bana Diallo, Minister for Regional Development and Population, Mali, Chief Guest, Dr. Zahid Malik, State Minister of Health and Family Welfare

Dhaka, (14/5/2016): A High-level South-South Exchange on Population Policy and Reproductive health between Bangladesh and six Sahel countries kicked off on Saturday afternoon at the Lake Shore Hotel, Dhaka. The week-long international knowledge sharing conference will end on May 20.

The South-South knowledge exchange will promote more effective population policies in Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania and Niger who are all part of the SWEDD initiative. The International Conference is jointly organised by the World Bank and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with the support of the Ministry of Health and Family welfare of Bangladesh.

The objective of the high-level conference is to learn about the Bangladesh Population Policy, and how reproductive health service was increased in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a similar religious context to Sahel countries, and historically has faced many of the same challenges. Specifically, these are the success and challenges of population programme, sexual and reproductive health and rights including family planning and gender based violence. The countries will see about Bangladesh successes in relation to the family planning and reproductive health services to enhance acceptance of local communities, said speakers at the inaugural session of the conference

In the opening remarks, Mr. Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh said that Bangladesh is successful because they put women at the center of the development agenda including Government, NGOs collaboration for addressing family planning and population challenges.

Ms. Argentina Matavel Piccin, UNFPA Representative also spoke on the event. She said that successive Governments were committed and provided strong leadership for family planning. They were successful in spreading the message of family planning and the benefits of small families to every corner of the country through women health workers by going door to door. Strong government commitment towards women’s empowerment and women’s rights, increased participation of women in decision making and income generating activities contributed to Bangladesh’s achievements in the health of women , i.e. maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is 170 per 100,000 live births now which means 56 percent decline from the MMR of 382 in 2001. 

Her Excellency Rakiatou Kaffa Jackou, Minister of Population, Niger, at the inaugural session said, “I would like to express my happiness for being able to visit this beautiful country. I hope during my visit here I will be able to enrich my knowledge over how Bangladesh succeeded involving the religious leaders in the implementation of population control policy. In Niger, we face similar challenges that Bangladesh had several decades ago. I hope we will get suggestions from our Bangladeshi counterparts how delivery of health services can be improved, how it can reach the doors of rural people.

His Excellency Sambel Bana Diallo, Minister for Regional Development and Population, Mali, thanked the government of Bangladesh for hosting the international conference. He said, “In Mali, we had political unrest and Bangladesh deployed military that helped bring peace in our country. So, I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Bangladesh for standing beside us during the times of unrest. I would also like to thank the World Bank for organizing this knowledge sharing conference that I am sure will help us to sort out our priorities in developing Mali’s new Population Policy for 2016-2020.”

Chief Guest, Dr. Zahid Malik, State Minister of Health and Family Welfare welcomed the delegation from the Sahel countries, and shared many successes of Bangladesh, specifically in the health sector. He mentioned that strong political commitment and the actions ensured that Bangladesh took its population as a resource and gave preference to education and health. Women’s representation in the administration and politics is also remarkable. Several laws were enacted to prevent gender-based violence. Family planning to control the population health system started from the community clinic, family welfare centre, sub-district and districts hospital, free services and medicines, contraceptives are available. So the contraceptive prevalence rate is 62%. To make the health system stronger, technology including laptops and mobile phones were given to the health service providers, getting regular data from the field about how many pregnant mothers needed support. He also mentioned that child marriage was higher in Bangladesh and that was one of the reasons for the high maternal mortality rate in Bangladesh.  

Ms. Josiane Yaguibou, UNFPA Representative, Mali, Dr. Justin Koffi, SWEDD Regional Coordinator (UNFPA West and Central Africa Regional Office), World Bank Africa Region and other High level delegates from Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and officials from UN, WB, NGOs and Civil Society were also present at the event.

Dr Bushra Binte Alam, Senior Health Specialist, WB Bangladesh, conducted the inaugural session of the high level international conference.

Contact: Asma Akter, Communication Officer, UNFPA, asma@unfpa.org

               Mehrin Mehbub, Communication Officer, World Bank, Bangladesh, mmahbub@worldbank.org