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Survey reveals disparities despite remarkable progress in Bangladesh women, children's welfare

DHAKA, July 5 (Xinhua) -- A new survey has revealed substantial disparities still exist in relation to wealth, gender and location in Bangladesh despite it made remarkable progress in many areas of the wellbeing of women and children.

The complete results of the 2012-13 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), conducted by the government-run Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS)and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), was presented at an event in capital Dhaka on Sunday.

The survey covered a total of 79 social indicators, of which 16 are Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators.

It showed large disparities still remain between households from different geographical regions, rural and urban areas, households with different wealth and education levels of mothers.

"We are very pleased that the BBS through a longstanding partnership with UNICEF has successfully completed the MICS which is a nationally representative survey with information on the wellbeing of children at division and district levels," said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF's Bangladesh representative.

The results clearly show remarkable progress made in Bangladesh over the last few years in improving conditions for children, but it also highlights important disparities that need to be addressed, he said.

Though the country as a whole made progress in child survival and education, timely initiation of breastfeeding, reduction of child and infant mortality, according to the survey, pre-school attendance rate and school retention rate remains a challenge.

For instance, it said, while overall 42 percent under-5 children were stunted in the country, more than half of the children from the poorest households (52.8 per cent) as compared to 27 per cent of children from the richest group, were stunted.

Bangladesh eastern districts show higher levels of stunting with Meherpur district, 240 km west of Dhaka, some having the least and Netrokona district, some 158 km north of the capital city, with highest proportion of stunted children.

Similarly, according to the survey, while 43.5 percent of births are attended by a skilled health personnel during delivery, mothers from the poorest household get the services in only 26.5 percent cases as compared to 72.8 percent of mothers from the richest households.

Though deliveries attended by skilled health personnel is in general more prevalent in western parts of the country as compared to the eastern part, Feni and Bandarban districts, both from southeastern Chittagong division show respectively the highest and lowest proportions of deliveries attended by skilled personnel.

Prevalence of child marriage continues to be high with about 52. 3 percent of women of age 20-24 getting married before the age of 18 years, and 18.1 percent getting married before 15 years, said the survey.

For women of age 20-49 years, it said, every three out of five women are married before age 18 (62.8 per cent) while almost one in four are married before age 15.

Seventy-seven percent of the population of country use improved sanitation facilities and only about four percent practice open defecation, it added.

There are, however,significant differences in the use of improved sanitation facilities between the richest (95.9 percent) and the poorest households (45.6 percent).

Among the districts Madaripur in Dhaka and Bandarban in Chittagong divisions are the best and worst districts in this regard.

The survey was conducted in all 64 districts in Bangladesh by the BBS with technical assistance from UNICEF, from December 2012 to April 2013 engaging a total of 224 field survey personnel who collected data from 51,895 households.

While extending thanks to UNICEF Bangladesh for its support on MICS and other activities, Mohammad Abdul Wazed, Director General of BBS congratulated the survey team and all who contributed to the successful completion of the survey.

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