Save the Children Bangladesh and its partners, for the very first time, have agreed upon a broader consensus regarding increasing health budgets and adapting need-based programming policies in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address differential health needs.

A stakeholder’s event was organized by Save the Children in the presence of civil society partners such as World Bank, Icddr,b, USAID, MOHFW, Unicef, Bangladesh Pediatric Association (BPA) and Plan International. Moreover, the event was attended by the Ministry of Health in Bangladesh. The discussion around this issue gained huge buy-ins by the key stakeholders ahead of the national fiscal year budget and development of sector program.

In a country, all children deserve to live with equal opportunities in life. To start that, children deserve to be born at a facility which is close to their home and attended by trained healthcare professionals. However the reality is very different - many children are being denied the opportunity to survive and learn simply because of who they are and where they live. Bangladesh is no exception.

Bangladesh is one of the few countries that has achieved Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 target of reducing preventable newborn deaths by two-thirds and has made considerable progress on MDG 5, however, this achievements have been rather un-equal across the country. If data would be segregated, the Sylhet district of the country for example would not achieve any of the MDGs goals.

Even though there has been a substantial increase in healthcare facilities for mothers, pregnant women and newborns, ultimately Universal Health Coverage cannot be attained if some population groups are left behind. Access to healthcare facilities for the poor and the marginalised groups will only be possible with a strengthened health systems and exclusion-sensitive policies.

Dr. Mohammod Shahidullah, President of BPA and child health professional in Bangladesh highlights the importance of prioritising women, child and adolescent health. “The strategies should be set out to ensure every woman, child and adolescent, in any setting, anywhere in the world, is able to both survive and thrive by 2030 as by then, these children will be 24-33 age group. Hence, if we invest in adolescent’s health now, the country will have a better workforce and the nation will move forward.”

The representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOH&FW) highlighted the importance of quality of service and its coverage through a well-governed and accountable approach so that the different stakeholders comply with the policies and procedures. The stakeholders have taken a collaborative effort in discussions related to policy change, budgeting and programming as per where the needs are. Programs need to be demand driven and that ‘one-size fits all’ approach will not take us to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets.

Dr. Ishtiaq Mannan, Director, Health, Nutrition & HIV/AIDS, Save the Children Bangladesh emphasises on the need for an increased investment in health budget allocation and effective collaboration with the government of Bangladesh. “Effective collaboration is essential to reach every last child of every community, to establish more community health workers, to bring every pregnant women to primary healthcare centres, to ensure optimal quality of care at every level of service delivery points, to extend need/skill based training as appropriate for each level of service providers. Political commitments need to be translated into prudent investment and efficient implementation. Without more investment, rhetoric will not be translated into reality.”

Hence, the Every Last Child campaign in Bangladesh calls on the Government to, by 2018:

- Expand health coverage to improve maternal and child health outcomes in excluded areas pursued through identification, investing in high-impact areas, differential planning and infrastructural development in urban slums.

- Invest in human resources engaged in the healthcare industry. Some policy measures can be standard-based performance monitoring, accountability and capacity-building.

- Increase public expenditure on health. In terms of health expenditure (as a percentage of total government expenditure), Bangladesh ranked among the 20 lowest countries in the world in 2014.