Nearly 60 percent of birth deliveries in Bangladesh are conducted without skilled health personnel, according to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The percentage of births attended by skilled health personnel in the country is lower than other South Asian nations.
The report titled “World Health Statistics 2017” was published on Wednesday.
The World Health Statistics, one of WHO's annual flagship publications, compiles data from the organisation's 194 member states on 21 health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets, with 35 indicators, as well as data on life expectancy.
Other health indicators in the report include mortality and disease rates, availability of health services and treatments, level of financial investment in health, and risk factors and behaviours that affect health.
Prof Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement yesterday told The Daily Star, “Health issues are closely interlinked with social development. This is reality and there is no scope of denying or contesting the report. But the fact is the government is sincere to address those issues and hope that the scenario will change within five to seven years.”
According to the report, the adolescent birth rate, for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years, was 113 per 1,000 adolescent girls in Bangladesh in 2015. Globally, the rate was 44.1 per 1,000 adolescent girls.
Prof Mahbub said, “It is true that the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh is still high. If early marriage is not stopped, the situation will not improve. A positive thing is that awareness among people has increased in recent times.”
The report said that globally, approximately 830 women died every single day in 2015 due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. “Most maternal deaths are preventable as the necessary medical interventions are well known.
“It is therefore crucially important to increase women's access to quality care before, during and after childbirth. In 2016, millions of births globally were not assisted by a trained midwife, doctor or nurse, with only 78% of births were in the presence of a skilled birth attendant,” the report said.
The under-five mortality rate in Bangladesh in 2015 was 37.6 per 1,000 births, while the neonatal mortality rate was 23.3 per 1,000 live births, it said.
“Newborn deaths represented half or more of all deaths among children under 5 years of age in all WHO regions in 2015 with the exception of the WHO African Region where one third of under-five deaths occurred after the first month of life.”
Prof AHM Enayet Hussain, additional director general of Directorate General of Health Services, said, “There is a misconception that a huge number of babies are born in Bangladesh by caesarean sections. But a good number of normal deliveries also takes place in rural areas. If the family welfare centres across the country run round the clock, the situation will improve.”
Neonatal deaths in Bangladesh have decreased over the years due to people's awareness, he noted. “We are working on it [neonatal deaths] ... Bangladesh has achieved tremendous success in vaccination programmes compared to many other countries.”
Prof Rashid-E-Mahbub said a large number of babies were born with the help of conventional midwives. The government was providing training for midwives to make them competent.
According to the report, 94 percent of infants in Bangladesh received three doses of hepatitis B vaccine in 2015.
In Bangladesh, 72 percent of women of reproductive age who were married or in-union had their family planning need met with a modern contraceptive method in 2016. Globally, the rate was 77 percent.
The prevalence of stunting in children under five in Bangladesh was 36.1 percent in 2016. “Stunting prevalence was highest [34%] in the WHO African Region and the WHO South-East Asia Region,” the report said.
Prof Enayet said the government had taken up a number of nutrition programmes to reduce stunting among children.
Bangladeshis lived longer than Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese in 2015. The average life expectancy of Bangladeshis was 71.8 years. Japan, which topped the ranking for close to three decades, had an average life expectancy of 83.7 years.
The healthy life expectancy, which refers to the number of years people live in full health, was also in the report. Bangladeshis lived in full health until 62.3 years in 2015.
The report also found that women lived longer than men across the world in 2015. The global average for women was 73.8 years while it was 69.1 years for men.
In Bangladesh, the average life expectancy for women was 73.1 years in 2015, while it was 70.6 years for men, it said.