Reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and improving sexual, reproductive health rights in the low-performing districts

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Dhaka, 23 November 2017: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with support from the Government of Canada, UNICEF and UNFPA today has launched its, “Improving Sexual, Reproductive Health and Rights including Maternal and Newborn Health in low performing districts” project to improve integrated sexual and reproductive health and rights including maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in the lowest performing five districts of the country.

Bangladesh has made considerable progress in reducing maternal mortality, improving child survival and family planning over the last few decades.

Despite these achievements, adolescent pregnancy, neonatal mortality, unmet need in family planning, inadequate quality maternal and neonatal health services, still remain as formidable challenges. There has been a plateau in the reduction of maternal mortality and at the same time 62,000 newborns are dying every year in Bangladesh.

Another major concern is the prevailing and growing inequity and disparities across geographical areas and wealth quintiles in terms of access to essential services resulting in excess morbidity and mortality.

“Canada is proud to support the Government of Bangladesh in its efforts to improve health for mothers, children and newborns across the country. This initiative will help to save over 15,500 lives and provide 1.75 million women and girls with greater knowledge and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is no small feat. It is ultimately this kind of initiative that will change our world for the better”, said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister for International Development, Government of Canada.

The project will work on health systems strengthening, capacity development, community awareness raising, and empowering adolescents through education. It will also build on existing health, education, and community structures, within the government systems.

UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to promote improved home and community based new-born care behaviour and practices in 25 low performing districts of Bangladesh, covering the most deprived population. Upgrading facilities with provision of Special Care New-born Units (SCANU) for sick new-borns in 32 hospitals and Newborn Stabilizing unit in upazila health complex are also noteworthy steps. During this new project, these facilities will be scaled up in the lowest performing five districts including Jamalpur, Moulavibazar, Sirajganj, Rangamati and Patuakhali.

“As a strategic partner, we reaffirm UNICEF’s continued commitment to support the Government of Bangladesh in its efforts to reduce maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality and improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs). The project is indeed a timely initiative towards this end”, said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative.

UNFPA is already supporting the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in creating a cadre of professional midwives to provide respectful, evidence-based care for women and newborn. UNFPA is also working with the government to increase institutional capacity to deliver integrated and equitable sexual and reproductive health services, as well as increase access to a range of rights-based family planning options and information for those who want and need them.

“Better outcomes for mothers and newborns go hand in hand with strengthening the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, also empowering young people through education now. This is why the holistic, integrated approach of the project is pivotal,” commented Iori Kato, UNFPA Bangladesh Acting Representative.

Both UNICEF and UNFPA will work on emergency obstetric and newborn care. UNICEF will take the lead on newborn and health systems strengthening and UNFPA will advance quality pre-service education of midwives, and integration of midwives into all sexual and reproductive health care areas through a continuum of midwifery-led care.

Both organizations will focus on community awareness. UNFPA will lead family planning and adolescent sexual and reproductive health care and empowerment through education, and UNICEF will lead local level planning, Maternal, Perinatal Death Review and Surveillance (MPDSR), and sharing innovations and best practices.

The project is in line with the major areas of interventions reflected in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s ongoing health sector programme from 2017 to 2022, supported by different development partners.

For further information please contact:
• AM Sakil Faizullah, UNICEF Bangladesh,, +880 1713 049900
• Faria Selim, UNICEF Bangladesh,, +880 1817 586 096
• Rachel Tze, UNFPA,, +8801779784860
• Asma Akter, UNFPA, , +88 01711673555