A mother poses with her child in Khoerpara Village. © ACDI-CIDA/Nancy Durrell McKenna

Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries. With about 154.7 million people (2012) living in a country about twice the size of New Brunswick, the resulting population pressures are huge. If you are living in Bangladesh, you are likely to be poor and very vulnerable to natural disasters. You may also be part of the rapidly expanding youth segment of the population—some 34 percent of the population is under the age of 15. Bangladesh ranks 146 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2012 Human Development Index.

Bangladesh is also very vulnerable to natural disasters, such as cyclones and severe flooding, which occur with regular frequency, causing damage, disease and loss of food crops.

Yet Bangladesh continues to make important development gains. Both population growth and the incidence of poverty have steadily declined, while the GDP growth rate has averaged 6 percent per year. The proportion of the population living below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day has fallen: from 70.2 percent in 1992 to 43.3 percent in 2010. Considerable progress has been made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, notably in health and education.

Bangladesh's many development challenges include:

  • poor quality health and education services, with unequal access to those services among the poor, especially women;
  • weak public sector institutions that inhibit economic advancement and prosperity;
  • environmental difficulties arising from global climate change and increasing population density.

Find out what Canada is doing to support development in Bangladesh.

Thematic Focus

In 2014, Bangladesh was confirmed as a country of focus for the Government of Canada’s international development efforts.

Bangladesh was chosen based on its level of need and its ability to use development assistance wisely and on Canada's capacity to make a difference. Bangladesh has been one of Canada's largest development assistance recipients for the last four decades.

The objective of Canada's international development program in Bangladesh is to create opportunities for children and youth and to stimulate sustainable economic growth. Equality between women and men, environmental sustainability and good governance are integrated into all programs. Continuous dialogue and consultation among development partners (government, non-government and donors) guides Canada’s investment choices with respect to international development.

Canada's program in Bangladesh is directly aligned with the Government of Bangladesh's Sixth Five Year Plan FY2011-FY2015: Accelerating Growth and Reducing Poverty. This approach will strengthen the capacity of national and local governments to plan, manage and monitor health and education delivery systems and to promote sustainable economic growth.

Children and youth, including the health and rights of women and children

In the field of education, Canada supports efforts to:

  • improve the quality and delivery of education;
  • increase access and retention rates in primary schools;
  • reduce gaps between girls and boys.

In the field of health, Canada supports efforts to:

  • improve access to health care and medicines;
  • improve maternal and child health delivery systems;
  • provide essential drugs and medicines.

Key anticipated results

  • Improved treatment availability for diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, and other illnesses, especially for children under the age of five.
  • Scaled up integrated, comprehensive approach to the delivery of district level services.
  • Improved transportation and referral systems for mothers, especially in rural areas.
  • Increased number of children between the ages of 12 to 23 months routinely immunized.
  • Increased number of poor children not in the formal school system receiving basic education.

Economic growth

Canada supports efforts to strengthen employment-intensive industries and to promote international trade. This support includes:

  • increasing access to employment skills, particularly for youth;
  • streamlining legal, fiscal and regulatory frameworks for business development;
  • improving public sector financial management.

Key anticipated results

  • Increased access to skills training, new technology and information, leading to the creation of new jobs and businesses.

Progress on Aid Effectiveness

A joint cooperation strategy, signed in June 2010, supports a coordinated approach and a more strategic division of labour between donors and the Government of Bangladesh.

Canada's bilateral program has shifted toward fewer, larger projects responding to Bangladesh's needs. Canada is an active participant in both of Bangladesh's sector-wide approaches for primary education and health, which are making tangible progress.



Achievements 2012-2013

Children and youth, including the health and rights of women and children

  • Administered vaccines against childhood diseases, including measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus and polio at the right time and the right intervals to an additional 200,731 un-reached children under one year which helped to save lives.
  • Supported the installation of ten customized cold rooms to improve storage and facilitate the introduction of vaccines for pneumonia.
  • Contributed to the provision of life skills training to 217,100 adolescents (60 percent girls and 40 percent boys), increasing their ability to make decisions on reproductive health and to delay marriage.
  • Helped provide basic education to 673,815 children (almost two thirds female) between the ages of 9 to 12 years without access to formal education , including 59,185 children belonging to ethnic minorities and 20,655 children with special needs.
  • Helped 213,787 students without access to formal education complete primary school.

Economic growth

  • Supported provision of public financial management training to more than 6,600 government officials.
  • Increased capacity of parliamentary oversight committees to audit public sector spending.
  • Enhanced ability of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh (OCAG) to produce quality audits that meet international standards and provide reliable information to Bangladesh’s Parliament on the government’s management of public sector finances.
  • Installed improved information technology (IT) infrastructure and provided extensive IT training to over 1,200 officials and staff to help them improve their audit procedures.

Achievements 2011-2012

Children and youth, including the health and rights of women and children

  • Helped raise the proportion of newborns delivered by skilled health personnel from 16 percent in 2004 to 32 percent in 2011.
  • Helped vaccinate 1.2 million children against polio and measles.
  • Contributed to fertility decline, from 6.3 births per woman in the 1970's to 2.3 births per woman in 2011, with 61 percent of married women now using contraceptives.
  • Helped provide 526 million textbooks and build 40,440 primary school classrooms between 2004 and 2011.
  • Helped operate 17,885 primary schools providing non-formal basic education to 553,748 children who are unable to attend regular primary schools.
  • Administered vaccines against childhood diseases, including measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus and polio at the right time and the right intervals to an additional 231,639 unvaccinated children younger than one year of age which helped save lives.

Economic growth

  • Helped train 2,000 government officials on debt management, cash flow management, payroll and accounting procedures and pension administration to improve their ability to make more accurate spending forecasts and better manage their budgets.
  • Increased the incomes of 440,000 farmers and small business owners by providing fertilizers and improved packaging options to help them become more competitive in key rural and urban sectors, such as prawn processing, furniture making, seed production and vegetable farming, including potatoes. For example, mini-packs of improved varieties of seed were offered to approximately 150,000 small farmers, which increased yields by up to 20 percent in 2012.
  • Helped 2.3 million poor and vulnerable people in 23 cities and towns establish their own development committees and town-level federations, with more than 90 percent of the elected leaders female; plan and implement projects to construct basic infrastructure, such as wells and latrines; establish apprenticeships and vocational training programs; and deliver block grants to start small businesses through support to the United Nations Development Programme.
  • Created jobs for 7,079 women and 11,447 men from landless groups in the areas of crop cultivation, cattle rearing, fish farming and in small businesses.

2014-2015 international assistance disbursements to Bangladesh (in millions of dollars)

Global Affairs Canada69.59
Other departments and sources0.73