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page 15

Introduction and socio-economic background

Country overview

1.Bangladesh, with an estimated population of about 140 million in an area of 145,570 square kilometres, is among the world’s most densely populated countries. Seventy five percent of the population lives in the rural area and the majority of the labour force (87%) is employed in the informal economy. Over the last 10 years Bangladesh has made tremendous progress on many counts especially in key human development indicators. In 2006 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) ranked Bangladesh 137th among 177 countries with an HDI score of 0.530 which places it among countries considered to have medium human development, suggesting that Bangladesh could be a role model by showing that sustained improvement in human development is possible even in poor countries with relatively modest level of income growth. This is the result of macro economic stability, low population growth, reduction in aid dependence, food self-sufficiency (with declining cultivable area). Reduction of mortality rate and malnutrition of children, close to 100 percent enrolment rate in primary schools also played an important role, while other factors are: effective disaster management capacity, promoting NGOs (non-government organization) and revolutionizing microcredit, active and free press, a vibrant and pluralist democratic civil society marked by cultural activism and developmental debates, and most importantly, increase in women’s empowerment (through mainstreaming women into the development process).

2.Despite significant achievements made in the recent years, Bangladesh is yet to overcome many challenges. The country is still one of the poorest in the world with some 40% of the population living below the poverty line, and 33% in absolute poverty. GDP per capita is still very low. Unemployment and underemployment remain pervasive. Only 40 percent of the total population has access to health services, 67 percent to improved sanitation and 75 percent to safe drinking water. The level of child malnutrition is still critical and so the maternal mortality rate. There still remains uneven spread of economic and social opportunities, unequal distribution of assets, growing disparity between developed and underdeveloped areas as well as rural and urban areas. Reaching the poorer areas such as coastal areas, charlands (isolated islands in the river), haor/baor/beel (big water bodies) and hills has often been difficult, and there are persistent pockets of seasonal distress (Monga, for example) whose development concerns remained unaddressed, with few exceptions.

3.The poverty affects children in terms of their access to adequate food, financial and physical resources, health services, and information and community affairs. However, children’s issues are articulated in all the documents/instruments, most importantly the NSAPR/PRSP and NPA for Children, and many positive measures are taken with regard to achieve and establish the rights of the child.


4.The total population of Bangladesh stood at 130 million at the time of last population census in 2001. The total current population of the country is estimated to be over 140 million, giving a population density of 948 persons per sq. km. There are approximately 25.5 million households in the country with an average household size of 4.9 (dwelling).Of the 2001

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