Formerly East Pakistan, Bangladesh was born out of conflict in the region and founded in its modern form in 1971.
A predominantly Muslim nation, it’s one of the world’s most densely populated countries, with more than 160 million people living in a land area roughly two-thirds the size of Victoria. Most of the land is low-lying delta and is vulnerable to flooding. Bangladesh is also regularly affected by tropical storms and heavy monsoonal rain that contributes to these flood events.
Most of the population relies on farming to make a living, with agriculture accounting for almost half of the country’s economy. Major crops include rice, jute and tea. Farming is growing increasingly difficult as rising seas destroy farmland in low-lying areas, inundating and salting the land and making it unfit for crops.
In recent years, urban areas—especially Dhaka, the capital—have experienced a population surge as many rural communities have found life increasingly difficult in their hometowns.
This has led to the growth of urban slums around major cities, as families come looking for safer ground on which to build a home and the prospect of work to build a life. But in these slums, children are more vulnerable to malnutrition, child labour, child marriage, violence, abuse, poor sanitation and pollution.
Despite a government focus on education and healthcare in recent years, the poorest families struggle to get access to the classroom or to a doctor. Around 15 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty (less than US$1.90 per day) and around 85 per cent live on less than US$5.50 per day.
Yet local partners are at work, serving the children of their communities and sharing a hope more powerful than poverty.