Bangladesh 2015

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In 2013 5,200 women died during pregnancy or childbirth and 77,000 babies died during the first month of life in Bangladesh.

You can help change these statistics. You can help us save mothers and babies in Bangladesh.


Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing the numbers of mothers and babies who die needlessly and has halved the maternal mortality rate between 2000 and 2015. However, the numbers of mothers and babies dying was so high that in 2013 5,200 women still died during pregnancy or childbirth and 77,000 babies died during the first month of life.

Key Statistics

  • Maternal mortality rate (MMR)         170 per 100,000 live births
  • Newborn mortality rate (NMR)         24 per 1,000 newborns
  • Infant mortality rate (IMR)                33 per 1,000 infants (less than one years of age)
  • Under 5 mortality rate (U5MR)         41 per 1,000 children (under five years of age)

The challenges

  • Bangladesh ranks 142 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index.
  • Despite recent impressive economic growth rates, 45% of the population still lives below the poverty line.
  • Bangladesh has the sixth largest number of newborn deaths globally and the national maternal mortality rate remains high.

There are two significant factors in the tragically high maternal and newborn death rates:

  • Around 71% of births in Bangladesh occur at home.
  • Only 36% of women giving birth have the support of a skilled birth attendant.

The difference we’re making

The Perinatal Care Project

In 2013 we celebrated the completion of a remarkable project which confirmed women’s groups have the power to save newborn lives.

Between 2008 and 2013 we with worked in the districts of Bogra, Faridpur and Moulavibazar with the Diabetic Society of Bangladesh’s Perinatal Care Project and University College London’s Institute for Global Health. Our ambitious programme set out to formally test the impact of mobilising communities through women’s groups on newborn deaths. The work with groups was complemented by strengthening healthcare and influencing policy makers to improve health services for mothers and babies.

810 women’s groups engaged over 10,426 women directly and benefited a population of 250,290.

The women’s groups empowered women to discuss and take action on the key factors that affect their health and brought significant improvements to their members’ lives.

The project evaluation showed we reduced the death rates of newborn babies by 38%. There were significant changes in newborn care practices such as using safe delivery kits, keeping a baby warm immediately after birth and breastfeeding. Maternal death rates reduced by around 27% and women’s groups were shown to be a highly cost-effective approach for improving newborn survival in rural Bangladesh.

Through taking part in a women’s group, Shapla has learnt about breastfeeding, nutrition, and the need for vaccination and regular check-ups during pregnancy - “If you give a person food, it will be finished in one day. But information is more important than food. It helps us look after ourselves and our family better.”

There’s still more to do …

Throughout the next 3 years we’ll be working in Bogra district to improve maternal and newborn health for a further 20,000 women by setting up 194 more women’s groups and supporting their access to good quality maternal and newborn health services.

All our women’s groups strive to improve the chances of mothers and their babies surviving pregnancy and childbirth but also aim to leave lasting legacies in the communities we work in. We do this by making sure each and every one of our women’s groups also empower local people to campaign for better healthcare services (advocacy) and also by making sure that local healthcare services are able to cope with the additional demand and quality standards that our women’s group approach results in (strengthening local health services).


Our current programme in Bangladesh plans to support people to campaign for better local services by:

  • Sharing learning from the project with government staff, NGOs, Imams and teachers.
  • Increasing women's participation in community clinic committees and build their capacity to advocate for improved maternal and newborn service quality.

Strengthening Local Health Services

When it comes to improving the quality of local health services for mothers and babies we plan to:

  • Improve community-facility linkages to enable communities to advocate for improved service quality and hold service providers to account.
  • Strengthen community referral systems.

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