Ending Preventable Child Deaths by 2035: Bangladesh Call for Action Launching Ceremony

This blog was originally published in EveryOneWritten by Arefin Islam and Rezaul Hasan. 

The Government of Bangladesh on 21st July 2013 officially declared its commitment for ending preventable child deaths in the country by 2035.

On behalf of Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh, Professor Dr. A.F.M. Ruhal Haque MP, the honorable Minister, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare launched the Call for Action in a hotel. Professor Dr. Syed Modasser Ali, Advisor to the Prime Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Social Welfare Affairs and Mr. AKM Amir Hossain, Director General, Directorate General of Family Planning were present as Special guests in the occasion. Other distinguished guests included Dr. Pascal Villeneuve, Representative, UNICEF Bangladesh, Christine E. Kimes, Acting Country Director, World Bank, Bangladesh and H.E. Dan Mozena, US Ambassador to Bangladesh. The launching event was chaired by M. M Neazuddin, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. USAID, UNICEF, Saving Newborn Lives (SNL), Save the Children and icddr,b provided all sorts of support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Bangladesh has achieved remarkable success in reducing U5MR in the last two decades with a 60% reduction in this period and is on track to achieve MDG4. Neonatal mortality has also declined although at a slower pace. Skilled attendance at delivery doubled since 2004. Practices related to child and newborn care along with care seeking from qualified providers has improved significantly. Contextual factors like fertility, female education and employment, communication, efforts of the GO-NGOs at the community level and foreign remittance are thought to have contributed to this tremendous progress. Commitment of the government towards achieving universal health care coverage has been phenomenal.

The program was initiated with a presentation made by Dr. Syed Abu Jafar Md. Musa, the Director, Primary Health Care (PHC) and Line Director, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (MNC&AH), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). He mentioned that Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina received UN award for Bangladesh’s outstanding achievements in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) particularly in reducing child mortality on September 19, 2010. He described the key milestones and successes of Bangladesh program to address child survival issue. The National Neonatal Health Strategies and Guidelines provided specific directions to address neonatal mortality. Operational Plans under the Health Population Nutrition Sector Development Program, 2011-16 address various aspects of child survival including health care, nutrition, community-based care and behavior change. The network of community clinics created opportunities for child health and related services to reach the rural communities at their door-steps. He said that Bangladesh is one of 23 countries on track to achieve MDG4 & has the 4th most rapid rate of decline in child mortality. He quoted the speech of the honorable Health Minister at the global “Child Survival Call to Action” meeting on June 14-15, 2012, in Washington, D.C. follows: ‘‘The Government of Bangladesh is moving beyond the MDGs and is looking to end preventable under-five deaths by 2035.  We welcome our diverse set of partners that join us in this Call to Action to end preventable child death by jointly designing and implementing innovative programs to protect the next generation of Bangladesh’. He also mentioned some challenges to achieve the goals like human resource, utilization of public health facilities, quality health services, access of health care services to the hard-to-reach areas, supervision and monitoring system and capacity building of the service providers. Dr. Musa illustrated the evidence based interventions and shared the strategic approach. He emphasized on the equity-focused service delivery strategy along with effective partnerships and collective commitment of government, professionals, development partners, civil society, media and communities and monitoring for results and adjustment of operational strategies as and when necessary.

Dr. Pascal Villeneuve, Representative, UNICEF Bangladesh said “The goal is ambitious, yet achievable”. He also added, ‘The challenge now is to achieve high levels of coverage of existing and new interventions, such as vaccinations and skilled birth attendants, by targeting the poorest populations where infant and child mortality remains high. Christine E. Kimes, Acting Country Director, World Bank, Bangladesh expressed their  cooperation and support to Bangladesh Government to achieve the MDG by 2015 and also in the initiatives for preventable child deaths by 2035.  H.E. Dan Mozena US Ambassador to Bangladesh said “I would like to congratulate the Government of Bangladesh on its vision and leadership, as well as the partners for their contributions towards this impressive progress.  We look forward to our continued collaboration with Government of Bangladesh and the citizens it serves. Together, we will strive for a future where every mother has the opportunity to see her child celebrates his or her 5th birthday.” Mr. M. M Neazuddin, the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare thanked all donors, UN agencies and development partners for their commitment and support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for developing the strategy to combat preventable child deaths.

Before the declaration, Professor Dr. A.F.M. Ruhal Haque MP, the honorable Minister, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said that Bangladesh had tremendous success in health sector which needed to be disseminated throughout the country to make the community people aware about the interventions for prevention of child and infant deaths. He said MOH & FW would implement ‘evidence-based’ actions to achieve the goals for newborn and child survival. As a commitment, the minister mentioned that the government would ensure essential newborn care  including resuscitation to save newborns who do not breathe at birth, introduce application of Chlorhexidine in the umbilical cord to prevent infections, and use of antibiotics at the primary level facilities. The government will also promote Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) for preterm babies and low birth weight babies. Proper management of child births with skilled attendants, promotion of breastfeeding, strengthening Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) both at the community and facility, establishment of effective referral linkage, introduction of new vaccines and prevention of injury and drowning are some of the other important interventions that the government believes would help Bangladesh to reach the target even before 2035. He declared the seven specific activities and six strategic interventions for ending preventable child deaths by 2035: Bangladesh Call for Action.

The event was well covered by all almost all print media, electronic media, and online media.

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