Bangladesh is working to improve the health of its people. This is a difficult task in a country plagued by poverty and natural disasters. Development agencies estimate that one-half of the population lives without the basic necessities, including adequate health care. Many children are malnourished and vitamin deficient, and there is a high rate of maternal death during childbirth. The average life expectancy is 55 years.
Through various efforts, Bangladesh has actually raised its citizens average life expectancy by 15 years since 1960. That is in the space of a single generation. The government also allocates considerable resources to family planning. This has contributed to lowering the high birth rate.
In 1996, approximately two million children were inoculated against polio as part of a government campaign to eradicate the disease.
In rural and hilly areas, people have access to Hindu ayurvedic, a Muslim Unani medicine, practised by folk healers called ojhas or fakirs. These healers are generally called upon to treat everything from temporary illnesses to chronic diseases to bone fractures and snake bites. They also provide amulets for protection against sorcery. Wearing one of these is popular among the poor and the middle classes.
The government runs an extensive network of hospitals and dispensaries, and some areas are well-served medically. In remote areas, health care services may be far away. Voluntary organizations provide much of the country's welfare service and Bangladesh is a major recipient of foreign aid.