Press Release

Government commits to accelerate universal health coverage

11 May 2023

A vision of a Bangladesh where all people have access to high-quality primary healthcare without financial hardship

The Government of Bangladesh has reiterated its commitment for Universal Health Coverage and pledged to accelerate its efforts for achieving it by 2030 through expanding services, increasing resources and improving efficiency.

This renewed commitment was made by Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today in her address as the Chief Guest at the High-Level Event on Accelerating Universal Health Coverage towards Smart Bangladesh. She stated that ensuring necessary health care to the entire population is our constitutional obligation, and we have been trying to fulfil it since our first day in the government. In addition to what we have already done, we will take additional measures including the ‘public provision of an essential package of healthcare for all’ to accelerate the progress so that we could reach the target by 2030. She gave directions on a number of issues including formulation of a proper package of essential services (ESP), filling the vacant position of health manpower, arranging primary health care in the urban area etc. so that health sector could take a faster track towards UHC.

Organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the program was supported by a number of national and international organizations like UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, Suchona Foundation, Centre for Research and Information, and Chatham House, London. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare appreciated the international organizations, especially UNICEF and WHO, for the support provided at every step.

Secretary, Health Services Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in his welcome speech remarked that this is a well-timed event as we are preparing our next five-year long sector program, and United Nations General Assembly is going to organize a High-Level Meeting on UHC in September 2023.

Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and presently, the Co-chair of Chatham House Commission on Universal Health was present in the event as the Special Guest. A number of dignitaries, including Ministers, MPs, national and international experts, senior officials, members of the civil society and youth leaders took part in the event.

In her speech, Rt Hon Helen Clack shared her experience and remarked that increasing government investment in comprehensive primary health care is a cost-effective and equitable investment towards ensuring a healthy population, a growing economy, and keeping Bangladesh on the path to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Reflecting on the progress in health sector, Hon’ble Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mr Zahid Maleque, MP said that Bangladesh has been recognized globally for its country-wide network of health care delivery starting from Community Clinic to Medical University, its universal coverage of child immunization, and the recent success in Covid 19 Management and vaccination. Hon’ble Prime Minister is an internationally known proponent of UHC, and we will be able to achieve a UHC under her leadership- he added.

It might be noted that achieving UHC is a challenging target. It requires strong political commitment and sound technical knowledge in health planning and management, this event has been able to address both the areas of requirement. The event had two parts - first part was comprised of questions to and answers from the Chief Guest, Special Guest and the Experts – which was moderated by Ms. Saima Wazed, honourable Advisor to Director general of WHO on Mental Health and Autism, who is also an esteemed Commissioner of the Chatham House Commission on Universal Health.

Present at the event were Gwyn Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Dr. Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative to Bangladesh, and Mr. Sheldon Yett UNICEF Country Representative to Bangladesh. Mr. Yett said that UNICEF and WHO congratulates the Government of Bangladesh for pledging to make primary health care accessible and affordable to all, including the most vulnerable children and families. Universal health coverage allows countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

The second part was dedicated to discussion and finding solutions to the challenges related to ensuring service delivery and arrangement of required financing for health care. Two parallel technical sessions, one on ‘Improving Access to Affordable and Quality PHC for Universal Health Coverage’ and the other on ‘Health Care Financing for Accelerating Universal Health Coverage’, took place. Discussions of the sessions were moderated by Dr. Robert Yates and Md. Ashadul Islam respectively.

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Health Organization

Goals we are supporting through this initiative