A great deal of progress has been made in improving children’s lives in Bangladesh since the last Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in 2012-13. However, more needs to be done if the country is to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New findings from the Bangladesh 2019 MICS show that more needs to be done if Bangladesh is to achieve its ambitious UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Bangladesh has made great strides in the areas of health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, and child protection. The 2019 survey, conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and UNICEF Bangladesh Country Office, collected data between 19 January and 1 June from 61,242 households and the results from the survey provides in-depth and statistically reliable data from across all 64 districts.
One of the most positive developments was a sharp decline in chronic malnutrition as measured by stunting levels, which fell from 42 per cent in 2013 to 28 per cent in 2019. All child mortality rates (neonatal, post-neonatal, infant and under-five) have also seen a downward trend in Bangladesh over the last 30 years, according to the 2019 survey findings.
Other welcome findings include an increase in the availability of drinking water, better access to and use of toilets an increase in the net attendance of children in primary and secondary schools, and an increase in birth registration, which ensures a child’s right to an identity.
More rapid “progress with quality” is required for Bangladesh to continue as a thriving middle-income country. Issues such as the quality of education, access to drinking water, the battle against child marriage and violence against children continue to be highly critical protection issues. Child disciplining also remains alarmingly high -- six out of ten children under 15 years of age are subjected to some form of physical punishment by their parents or other caregivers.
It is critical to break gender stereotypes and transform social norms that perpetuate gender inequality, Bangladesh cannot wait to invest in its children and youth if it is to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend. The country has only 11 years to go before this unique window of opportunity closes. It is essential to increase investment to strengthen systems and to build structures and capacities to accelerate the SDGs in Bangladesh.
Key findings at a glance:
- The average household size is 4.3 persons. About 35.6 per cent of the population are under the age of 18. The Total fertility rate (2.3) and adolescent birth rate (83) remained the same over the past 5 years.
- The share of children who were breastfed is very high (98.5 per cent). However, fewer than half of children (46.6 per cent) were breastfed within one hour of birth.
- Moderate and severe underweight prevalence has dropped from 31.9 per cent in 2012-13 MICS to 22.6 per cent in 2019. Similarly, moderate and severe stunting has gone down significantly, from 42 per cent in 2012-13 to 28 per cent in 2019.
- The share of children aged 36 to 59 months who attended early childhood education is small (18.9 per cent), which is a slight increase from the 13.4 per cent in 2012-13.
- The net attendance rate in primary school is high at 85.9 per cent, an increase from 73.2 per cent in 2012-13. Nevertheless, 13.1 per cent of adolescents are not in lower secondary school (this is higher among boys, where about one in five (18.1 per cent) children is out of lower secondary education).
- The proportion of under-five children in Bangladesh whose births are reported has risen sharply to 56 per cent in recent years.
- 6.8 per cent of children aged 5-17 years are involved in child labour. This number is higher among children not attending school (18.9 per cent) compared to those attending school (4.4 per cent).
- Child marriage remains widely practiced with 51.4 per cent of women aged 20-24 years first married before their 18th birthday, and 15.5 per cent of women first married before their 15th birthday.
- Almost all households (98.5 per cent) have access to an improved source of drinking water, with a small difference between rural and urban households. However, only 43 per cent of the population lives in an area where the improved drinking water source is located on the premises.
- About 84.6 per cent of households in Bangladesh have access to improved sanitation. In terms of hygiene practices, knowledge is high in Bangladesh, but the practice of handwashing at key moments remains very low.
- The share of children aged 2-17 years with functional difficulty in at least one identified domain is 7.3 per cent.
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