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Bangladesh highlights health sector success at UN

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Bangladesh has "outperformed" its many South Asian neighbours in health-related achievements, "convincingly defying the expert view" that economic strength and abundant health resources are the key drivers of better population health, said a Bangladesh envoy in New York.

"The Lancet, a renowned British medical journal, called Bangladesh's success as one of the great mysteries of global health," said Masud Bin Momen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN highlighting the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the health sector.

He made the remarks while delivering Bangladesh statement on the draft resolution on 'Global health and foreign policy: healthier world through better nutrition under the agenda' at the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York recently, reports UNB.

Ambassador Momen said Bangladesh has seen remarkable health improvements since gaining its independence in 1971, and has evolved to a role model of "good health at low cost".

Public Health scholars mentioned Bangladesh as a positive deviant, performing far better, given its widespread challenges, than anyone could have expected, he added.

In terms of health expenditure, per capita expenditure (PPP) from public funds in Bangladesh has increased to US$ 88 only in 2014 and it spent less than 3 per cent of its GDP for health in the same year, said the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations on Saturday.

However, Bangladesh's health achievements in reducing maternal, infant, and under-5 mortality rates, increased vaccination coverage, higher life expectancy at birth have come in spite of this low per capita GDP spending on healthcare, said Ambassador Momen.

"The progress in infant, child and maternal mortality has been particularly striking, with maternal mortality reduced from 594 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 176 deaths in 2015. The infant mortality and under 5 mortality rates, as of 2016, are 29 and 36 per 1000 live births respectively," he said.

The envoy said challenges in global health, despite progress, still remain with special regard to inequities and vulnerabilities within and among countries, regions and populations.

"We think that political commitments at the UN can play a significant role in contributing to the global health agenda," he said.

Ambassador Momen said they need to work for collective actions and its greater coherence at all levels and across all sectors and stakeholders as they endevour to address the health needs of the most vulnerable populations and improve equity.

"Global health is multidimensional in scope, often crosses physical boundaries and requires sustained high-level commitment and closer international cooperation, including partnerships among relevant stakeholders," he said.

Bangladesh undertook a "pluralistic" health system where resources were pulled in from public funds and spaces were given for NGOs to work in the health sector. "Our government's role in promoting and facilitating widespread education of girl child's have also helped."

In Bangladesh, among the health indicators, Ambassador Momen said, not all are positive, particularly child malnutrition. "Like many other developing countries, Bangladesh has also been experiencing this dual burden."

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