Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada


Table of Contents

A mother poses with her child in Khoerpara Village. © ACDI-CIDA/Nancy Durrell McKenna


Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries. With about 150.5 million individuals (2011) in a country about twice the size of New Brunswick, the resulting population pressures are huge. If you are living in Bangladesh, you are likely to be poor and very vulnerable to natural disasters. You may also be part of the rapidly expanding youth segment of the population—some 34 percent of the population is under the age of 15. Bangladesh ranks 146 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2012 human development index.

Natural disasters such as cyclones and severe flooding occur with regular frequency, causing damage, disease, and loss of food crops.

Yet during the last 12 years, Bangladesh has made important development gains. Both population growth and the incidence of poverty have steadily declined, and gross domestic product growth rate has averaged 6 percent per year. The proportion of the population living below the national poverty line has fallen to 31.5 percent in 2010-2011 from 59 percent in 1991. Considerable progress has been made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, notably in health and education.

Bangladesh's many development challenges include:

  • Poor quality health and education services, with unequal access to those services by the poor, especially by women.
  • Weak public sector institutions inhibiting economic advancement and prosperity.
  • Environmental difficulties due to the impact of global climate change and increasing population density.

Thematic Focus

In 2009, as part of Canada's new aid effectiveness agenda, Bangladesh was selected as a country of focus.

Bangladesh was chosen based on its level of need and its ability to use aid dollars wisely and on Canada's capacity to make a difference. Bangladesh has been one of Canada's largest aid recipients for the last three decades.

The objective of Canada's international development program in Bangladesh is to create opportunities for children and youth and to stimulate sustainable economic growth. Equality between women and men, environmental sustainability, and good governance will be integrated into all programming. Continuous dialogue and consultation among development partners (government, non-government, and donors) will guide investment choices.

Canada's program in Bangladesh is directly aligned with the Government of Bangladesh's Sixth Five Year Plan (PDF, 5.7 MB, 916 pages) for Accelerating Growth and Reducing Poverty for 2011-2015. This approach will strengthen the capacity of both national and local governments to plan, manage, and monitor health and education delivery systems and to promote sustainable economic growth.

Children and youth, including maternal, newborn and child health

In education, Canada supports efforts to:

  • Improve the quality and delivery of education.
  • Increase access and retention rates in primary schools.
  • Reduce gaps between girls and boys.

In health, Canada supports efforts to:

  • Ensure that healthcare and medicines are delivered efficiently.
  • Improve maternal and child health delivery systems.
  • Provide essential drugs and medicines.

Key anticipated results

  • Improved treatment availability for diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, and other illnesses, especially for children under five years of age.
  • Scaled up integrated, comprehensive approach to the delivery of district level services.
  • Improved transportation and referral systems for mothers, especially in rural areas.
  • Increased number of children aged 12-23 months receiving routine immunization.
  • Provided a basic education to poor children not in the formal school system.

Economic growth

Canada supports efforts to strengthen the enabling environment for the growth of employment-intensive industries and for the promotion of international trade. This includes:

  • Increasing access to skills for employment, particularly for youth.
  • Streamlining legal, fiscal, and regulatory frameworks for business development.
  • Improving public financial management.

Key anticipated results

  • Increased access to skills training, new technology and information, creating new jobs and businesses.

Progress on Aid Effectiveness

A joint cooperation strategy, signed in June 2010, has been developed to further coordinate efforts, harmonize approaches, and work toward a more strategic division of labour between donors and the Government of Bangladesh.

Canada's bilateral program has shifted toward fewer, larger projects responding to Bangladesh's needs. Canada is an active participant in both of Bangladesh's sector-wide approaches for primary education and health, which are making tangible progress.

Achievements 2011-2012

Children and youth, including maternal, newborn and child health

  • Helped increase the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel from 16 percent in 2004 to 32 percent in 2011.
  • Helped vaccinate 1.2 million children against polio and measles.
  • Contributed to fertility decline since the 1970's from 6.3 births per woman to 2.3 in 2011, with 61 percent of currently married women using a contraceptive method.
  • Helped provide 526 million textbooks and build 40,440 new primary school classrooms between 2004 and 2011.
  • Helped operate 17,885 primary schools providing non-formal basic education to 553,748 children who are unable to attend regular primary schools.
  • Administered vaccines against childhood diseases, including measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus and polio at the right time and the right intervals to an additional 231,639 unvaccinated children under one year of age which helped to save lives.

Economic growth

  • Helped train 2,000 government officials on debt management, cash management, payroll and pensions for better forecast and execution of budget, improved service delivery as well as enhanced accounting and reporting functions.
  • Helped 440,000 farmers and small businesses increase their competitiveness in key rural and urban sectors (e.g. prawns, furniture making, seeds, potatoes, vegetables, fertilizer, packaging, etc.) and boost their annual average income. For example, introduction of mini seed packs of improved varieties allowed approximately 150,000 small farmers to increase their yields by up to 20 percent in 2012.
  • Through support to the United Nations Development Programme, helped 2.3 million poor and vulnerable people in 23 cities and towns establish their own development committees and town-level federations; plan and implement projects to construct basic infrastructure such as wells and latrines; establish apprenticeships and vocational training programs; and deliver block grants to start small businesses. More than 90 percent of the elected leaders of the committees and federations are women.
  • Created jobs for 7,079 women and 11,447 men from landless groups in crop cultivation, cattle rearing, fish farming or small businesses.

Achievements 2010-2011

Children and youth, including maternal, newborn and child health

  • Helped expand emergency obstetric care by supporting service delivery in 257 facilities, training 1,137 community-skilled birth attendants, and recruiting 2,000 nurses.
  • Provided more than one million children under the age of five with treatment for acute respiratory tract infection and 400,000 with treatment for diarrhea.
  • Helped provide polio vaccinations for 69,000 children under the age of one, preventing an estimated 3,400 deaths.
  • Helped increase the percentage of children completing Grade 5, from 50.7 percent in 2008 to 60.2 percent in 2011, exceeding the target of 55 percent.
  • Helped achieve gender equality in primary education—the ratio of girls and boys attending primary school reached 50:50.

Economic growth

  • Helped 900,000 farmers and small business operators increase their competiveness and boost their incomes in sectors such as furniture making and vegetable production.
    • For example, vegetable producers in the Nilphamari district doubled their profits within one year.
  • Supported the training of 235 staff with Bangladesh's Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Achievements 2009-2010

Children and youth

  • Helped 17,000 newly recruited teachers complete their certificate in education and helped more than 2.6 million children (60 percent girls) complete the pre-primary program.
  • Helped purchase $1.5 million in vaccines, primary health care, and emergency drugs.
  • Helped provide polio vaccinations for 69,000 children under the age of one, thereby preventing an estimated 3,450 deaths.

Economic Growth

  • Helped in the formation of 4,542 village poverty reduction committees, resulting in the repair of 2,558 houses, the installation of 36 tube wells for safe drinking water, the construction of 533 sanitary latrines, the enrolment of 101 children in school, the birth registration of 3,014 children, and the provision of medical services to 1,182 people.
  • Helped 4,048 poor households increase their income by providing such assets as cows, goats, and chickens.

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