There have been significant improvements in Bangladesh’s health sector over the past few decades. Average lifespan has increased, nutrition has improved, infant and maternal mortality had decreased. Despite all this, the health sector has not developed in proportion to the economy.
Not all strata of society are benefitting from the economic developments. There is still much to do about the food, nutrition and overall health of the low income population.
Safe drinking water must be ensured for all along with effective sanitation and water management. The culture of health and hygiene must be instilled in all households and workplaces.
Most importantly, the capacity and efficiency of health service centres must be increased along with improvements in the overall management of the sector.
Scarcity of clean drinking water has become a global problem and it is increasing in Bangladesh too. In many parts of the capital city, people do not have regular supply of WASA water.
In the southern districts, salinity has increased and there is a sharp crisis of drinking water. Research shows that this salinity is also a reason behind the high maternal mortality rate in that region.
High content of arsenic in water is also a health risk in many areas.
Sanitation and hygiene is at an extreme low level in various areas of the country. Waste management may have improved to an extent in the rural areas, but there is still a lacking in awareness concerning sanitation and hygiene.
The medical system is closely linked to the health situation. There is a glaring shortage of physicians and nurses in the public hospitals and health complexes. Steps must be taken to address this problem.
Certain basic institutional measures must also be taken, such as ensuring adequate supply of safe drinking water, maintaining hygiene and ensuring proper sanitation practices.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN Water keeps watch on the safe water, sanitation and hygiene factors of healthcare institutions worldwide. They published a 2019 baseline report, ‘Wash’ on Thursday, pointing to reasons why we have fallen behind in these areas.
Bangladesh’s annual expenditure per head in this sector is Tk 560, where Tk 400 comes from the government and the rest from people’s own pockets. Bangladesh’s annual allocation for this sector is Tk 64 billion, which the report terms as a fund shortage. In South Asia, the allocations in this sector are much higher than Bangladesh in Nepal and Sri Lanka. We must centrally increase allocations in this sector.
Increased allocations are not enough. The funds must be used appropriately. We must pay attention to this issue if we are to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But first we must fix our own national targets.