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At Compassion, we are fortunate enough to work with locals in the communities of 26 developing countries across the world. Each of these countries is unique in its history and culture; each faces its own challenges and issues. So if you have a moment, make a cuppa and let’s get better acquainted with them, starting with Bangladesh.

The Stats




166.28 million

Adult literacy rate*:

Male 62%, Female 53.4%

Access to improved drinking water:

Urban 85.8%, Rural 84.4%

Life expectancy:

Male 68.75, Female 72.63


Muslim 89.5%, Hindu 9.6%, other 0.9%

Infant mortality rate**:


Percentage living below the poverty line:


* Percentage of persons aged 15 and over who can read and write
** Number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1000 live births in the same year

Compassion in Bangladesh

Year Compassion began in Bangladesh: 2003
Number of registered children: more than 37,700
Number of children Compassion Australia assists: more than 3170
Number of child development centres: 160

5 Fast Facts

1. Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
2. Over 40 per cent of Bangladeshi children suffer from growth stunting, an often irreversible condition resulting from malnutrition during early childhood.
3. Much of Bangladesh is low-lying and vulnerable to flooding and cyclones.
4. Only 45 per cent of adolescents in Bangladesh are enrolled in secondary school.
5. A skilled birth attendant is only present at 32 per cent of all births in Bangladesh; just 29 per cent of women give birth in hospital.

Learn the Language

Derived from Sanskrit, Bangla or Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh.





My name is...

Ãmãra nãma...

Thank you

Tõmãkê dhan’yabãda

The Big Issues

Access to safe drinking water is a serious concern in both rural and urban Bangladesh. Over 90 per cent of the population uses groundwater as their main source of fresh water. Disastrously, Bangladesh’s high levels of naturally occurring arsenic were found to be contaminating the country’s tube wells in 1993. Since then, almost one in five wells have been found to have potentially dangerous levels of arsenic. As a result, an estimated 35-77 million people have been chronically exposed to arsenic. Long-term exposure to arsenic causes serious health problems, including cancer, and can impair children’s cognitive development.

Despite improvements in recent years, poverty remains deep and widespread in Bangladesh. Many children are underweight, with 41 per cent experiencing growth stunting. Diarrhoeal disease is another major health problem in Bangladesh, responsible for over 100,000 child deaths each year.

In terms of employment, agriculture is the biggest industry—almost half of Bangladeshis are employed in the sector—but it is unable to meet the demand for jobs. As a result, many Bangladeshis seek work abroad, sometimes illegally. While the country has a relatively low unemployment rate of five per cent, many people are underemployed, working only a few hours a week for a very small wage.

The History

Europeans began to set up trading posts in Bangladesh in the 16th Century; eventually the British came to dominate the region and it became part of British India. In 1947, West Pakistan and East Bengal (both primarily Muslim) separated from India (largely Hindu) and jointly became the new country of Pakistan. East Bengal became East Pakistan in 1955, but the awkward arrangement of a two-part country with its territorial units separated by 1600km left the Bengalis marginalised and dissatisfied. East Pakistan seceded from its union with West Pakistan in 1971 and was renamed Bangladesh.

The Climate

Nestled between Burma and India, most of Bangladesh is situated on the deltas of large rivers which flow from the Himalayas into the Bay of Bengal. The terrain is mostly flat plain with natural (non-precious) mineral deposits, although there are hills in the southeast of the country.

The climate in Bangladesh is one of extremes, with subtropical and tropical temperatures in summer exceeding 40 degrees Celsius and temperatures in the winter dropping below three degrees Celsius.

The Food

Local cuisine in Bangladesh includes spicy curries such as korma, rezala, masala gosht, chicken tikka and boti kabab, accompanied by rice. Bread such as parata or naan can be substituted for rice, while seafood and large varieties of sweet-water fish are available in most towns. Common drinks include spicy chai tea and refreshing yoghurt lassis, while tropical fruit such as mangoes, lychees and papayas are popular for dessert.

The People: Sweetie

Sweetie will be taking her Secondary School Certificate examinations in 2015, which she is very excited about. Even though her parents are illiterate and poor, Sweetie understands how well they have led her down the right path.

Sweetie’s home is about 20 minutes’ walk from her child development centre. Chatting with friends is one of Sweetie’s favourite pastimes. She also loves playing badminton and chess.

At home, Sweetie’s mother, Mary, does most of the household chores, and her father is a truck driver who earns about 500 Taka a day (equivalent to A$8) when there is sufficient workload in the market for transportation.

Sweetie looks forward to doing her further studies in English Honours when she is older and wants to pursue a career in fashion design.

Despite the challenges faced in her family, Sweetie is very happy to be registered with Compassion and to receive opportunities she may not have had otherwise. Today she is a confident girl taking responsibilities at home to clean the house compound and water her flower garden. When she has time, she designs and sews clothes. It’s practice that she knows will get her one step closer to her dream.

Photos by David Adhikary and Prodip

Sources: CIA, World Fact Book 2014; UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2014; BBC, Bangladesh Country Profile 2014;WHO, Water Sanitation Health 2013;; Compassion International

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