Bangladesh population

A look at development, population policy and the Three Zeros Agenda

Bangladesh’s progress towards achieving population policy goals is commendable. However, there are still areas for improvement. Achieving the ICPD “Three Zeros Agenda” could play a pivotal role in achieving Bangladesh’s population and development goals

Shabbir Ahmed and Hossain Zillur Rahman

October 21, 2022, 10:30 a.m.

Last modification: October 21, 2022, 10:32 a.m.

Graphics: TBS

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Graphics: TBS

Preliminary results of the “Population and Housing Census 2022″, released in the last week of July, marked the current population of the country at 16.5 crores. However, the anatomized report would wait for us for a few more days.

The observed trend of declining population growth and changing demographics after independence is optimistic. Yet changing the vision of development by looking at people not as numbers but as agents of development through successful transformation into human resources is crucial. In this perspective, it is important to reconsider the objectives of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Regarding the ICPD, recently a multi-stakeholder workshop was organized by the Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC) jointly with UNFPA to remind us of the pledges, in light of the ICPD summit, to achieve the population and development goals in the years to come. decade.

Undoubtedly, the ICPD goals set in 1994 have had a significant impact on monitoring population policy outside the realm of bureaucratic impressions. Furthermore, the revised ICPD action plan for its 25e anniversary in 2019 chose the “Three Zeroes Agenda” to focus more specifically on three compressed topics; first, zero “unmet need” for family planning; second, zero gender-based violence and harmful practices; and finally, zero preventable maternal deaths.

Bangladesh‘s progress towards achieving this population policy goal is commendable. However, challenges remain in some respects. In particular, the Covid-19 pandemic has marred some progress made over the years; even then, it is essential to focus on the current population management strategy of Bangladesh. But persistent challenges like child marriage and unwanted pregnancies remain high due to a lack of reproductive health awareness.

The same goes for the culture of impunity and lack of fair trials, triggering more incidences of gender-based violence. Moreover, the ambiguity on the population policy creates a blurred strategic vision. Moreover, it is also essential to compare the disproportionate reliance on institutional childbirth with the cesarean birth rate, which is currently three times higher than the world average.

After setting the scene, let’s encounter some disturbing statistics regarding the Agenda of Three Zeros.

First, a stagnant trend persists in the rate of reduction of maternal mortality. Additionally, in South Asia, Bangladesh has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy. Second, a recent UNFPA report highlights that the number of child marriages has increased by 10% in one year. Alarmingly, the low level of interest among 15-24 year olds in adopting family planning is also striking. Although marriage before the age of 18 is prohibited by law, a significant number of girls marry before that.

Furthermore, there is a serious lack of knowledge regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights education or how it should be promoted. As a result, it has become a double-edged sword by promoting child marriage while increasing the number of unsafe abortions. Third, a 2015 survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) found that 54.7% of married women have experienced domestic violence, both physical and psychological.

Amid these off-road statistics, a demographic dividend is elusive as there is a growing trend of child marriage, maternal mortality and violence against women. In order to resolve our dilemma of population development, it is crucial to once again review the 2012 population policy. The active collaborative participation of local government organizations, educational institutions, community leaders and NGO workers is also essential. to the achievement of ICPD commitments.

Furthermore, stronger social campaigns are needed to prevent child marriage, just as strong action is needed to eliminate domestic violence. Moreover, an analysis of the economic costs of violence against women should be conducted in the context of international experiences so that its impact on the public and private sectors can be clearly understood.

But it should be noted that the eighth five-year plan (2020-2025) for the first time incorporates some important demographic concerns in order to take advantage of important population issues such as the demographic dividend. In addition, improving population management and the effects of aging are the two population issues that have also been addressed in the action plan. In terms of population policy, the priorities set out in this strategy are reasonable.

In particular, reproductive health and sex education programs have been strengthened and updated family planning programs targeting the rural poor, urban slum dwellers and remote areas are helpful.

However, in light of the ICPD goal, it is crucial to plan for the simultaneous expansion of the rural health system and the skilled workforce to increase the number of births/skilled deliveries from 59 to 72% by 2025. Current implementation strategies are effective, although these strong goals and targets are well articulated in policy documents.

With a new population policy revision of 2012 to overcome the population problem, the role of the National Population Council should be functional and constructive. The continuation of family planning efforts and the guarantee of good governance of care in private structures are also necessary.

Finally, in the light of the “Three Zeroes Agenda”, it is essential to pay more attention to the urban poor and slum dwellers and to strengthen the work of these three agendas, we must also periodically assess the situation in the three areas, act accordingly, and implement priority action plans.


Shabbir Ahmed and Hossain Zillur Rahman. Sketch: TBS

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Shabbir Ahmed and Hossain Zillur Rahman.  Sketch: TBS

Shabbir Ahmed and Hossain Zillur Rahman. Sketch: TBS