Wednesday December 19, 2018

Bangladesh Government Responds to UNICEF Report on Infant Mortality

Bangladesh believes comparatively the country is more advanced than other countries regarding reducing child mortality rate

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Children in Bangladesh. Wikimedia
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  • The study, “Narrowing the Gaps, The Power of Investing in the Poorest Children,” found that for every U.S. $1 million spent, the number of deaths averted was 168, compared to 92 in non-poor groups
  • Over a 25-year period beginning in 1990, Bangladesh saw its infant mortality rate fall from 144 per 1,000 to 38 per 1,000, according to UNICEF figures released in 2015
  • The UNICEF report said most deaths could have been prevented with practical low-cost interventions

Dhaka, June 30, 2017: A Bangladesh government official and a physician said the country was cutting its infant mortality rate, but better programs and hospital services were needed to see even lower numbers.

The two spoke in response to a report of 51 countries released Wednesday by UNICEF that supports its prediction seven years ago that investing properly in poor children can save lives.

“Children growing up in poverty are nearly twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthday as children growing up in better circumstances,” the report said.

The study, “Narrowing the Gaps, The Power of Investing in the Poorest Children,” found that for every U.S. $1 million spent, the number of deaths averted was 168, compared to 92 in non-poor groups.

Over a 25-year period beginning in 1990, Bangladesh saw its infant mortality rate fall from 144 per 1,000 to 38 per 1,000, according to UNICEF figures released in 2015. This represents a 74 percent drop in infant mortality among Bangladeshi children aged five years and under.

Dr. Md. Jahangir Alam Sarker, director of primary health care at the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said he expected to see more improvements.

“Comparatively Bangladesh is more advanced than other countries regarding reducing child mortality rate. We are on the right track,” Sarker told BenarNews. “But we could not spread-out nationwide programs yet. For example, we could not start special-care units for infants in all hospitals.”

“We have undertaken many programs to reduce child mortality, but we could not reach many at the grassroots level,” he said. “Those programs are spreading out. We will get results soon.”

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Preventable deaths

The UNICEF report said most deaths could have been prevented with practical low-cost interventions including: oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhea; early immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases; primary and community-based health services such as skilled birth attendants to reduce complications during labor and delivery; and care-seeking by parents of young children to treat illness.

It praised the Bangladesh government for setting up community clinics at the village level to provide free routine health services while improving water, sanitation and hygiene.

Pediatrician Kaniz Hasina Sheuli, who also is a professor at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said more can be done to save sick children, pointing out that not all Bangladesh hospitals are equipped properly to help them and more skilled nurses are needed.

“We could manage to control child diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea, but still death rate of the children with birth defects is 4 percent,” she said.

“Usually we operate surgery immediately after the birth of those infants with defects. Intensive care units (ICU) are required for these of surgeries, but public hospitals lack this support,” Sheuli said. “Available ICUs are not sufficient. As a result, everybody doesn’t get this benefit.” (Benar News)

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The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

Ending FGM requires multiple entry points (and) enabling families and communities to be proactive in ending the practice of FGM is ultimately the most effective channel

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Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
A badge reads "The power of labor against FGM" is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

As many families prepare to holiday abroad during the festive season, British charities on Monday warned that girls taken overseas could be at risk of female genital mutilation(FGM)

Known as FGM, female genital mutilation is a ritual that usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, including the clitoris. Some girls bleed to death or die from infections.

Cutting affects an estimated 200 million girls worldwide and is a rite of passage in many societies, often with the aim of promoting chastity, with the highest prevalence in Africa and parts of the Middle East.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM. Many cases go unnoticed because they had happened at a young age and abroad, campaigners say. Campaigners say teachers should look out for warning signs, such as when a child is taken abroad for a long time to a country where there is a high prevalence of female genital mutilation.

FGM
– A doctor checks her phone as she poses for a photograph in Mumbai, India, June 8, 2016. The 50-year-old woman defends what is widely considered female genital mutilation within her small, prosperous Dawoodi Bohra community in India. VOA

“The best way of preventing the practice is by working with girls and their families … and training professionals like teachers and social workers to spot girls at risk of FGM,” said Leethen Bartholomew, head of Britain’s National FGM Center.

Some warning signs that a girl might have been cut include difficulty walking or sitting down, spending a long time in the toilet or becoming withdrawn, said the Center, run by children’s charity Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association.

FGM has been a criminal offense in Britain since 1985. Legislation in 2003 made it illegal for British citizens to carry out or procure female genital mutilation abroad, even in countries where it is legal.

In 2015, it became mandatory for health professionals, social workers and teachers in Britain to report known cases of FGM to police.

FGM
FILE – A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

The practice mostly affects immigrant communities from various countries including Somalia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.

British-based charity Forward, which supports FGM survivors from African communities, said though teachers have a crucial role to play, they should not stigmatize certain communities.

“While teachers need to be alert at all times about safeguarding children in their care, we also need to ensure that some communities are not unduly targeted and stigmatized,” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of FORWARD.

Also Read: Female Genital Mutilation Unconstitutional: Michigan Judge

“Ending FGM requires multiple entry points (and) enabling families and communities to be proactive in ending the practice of female genital mutilation is ultimately the most effective channel,” she said in emailed comments to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Britain in November pledged $63 million to combat female genital mutilation in Africa. (VOA)