Bangladesh’s Unlikely Attainment of the 4th Millennium Development Goal (MDG)

An analysis of their strategies toward improving child and neonatal health and how they can be applied to future initiatives


  • Marisa Coulton University of Western Ontario


This essay centers on the 2015 “Millennium Development Goals,” a historic UN initiative aimed at bridging many of the world’s inequalities. Since its conclusion, the success of the project has been hotly debated, as progress at the international level was uneven. In order to ensure the success of future initiatives, it is necessary to determine why these goals failed so decisively in some contexts but succeeded in others. Given the innumerable nations involved in the project, the scope of the essay was narrowed to focus on a single country and goal, centering on the improbable attainment of the fourth development goal (pertaining to neonatal and newborn health) in Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries. Using official UN documents and consultation with crucial UN actor Uzma Syed herself, this essay has proved that Bangladesh’s success was a result of efficient programming, data acquisition, and transnational, individual, and domestic cooperation. This allowed a small nation like Bangladesh to significantly reduce its under-five and infant mortality rates, proving that it is, in fact, possible to enact meaningful change in such difficult circumstances. Following the conclusion of the initiative, the country has decided to maintain child survival as a government health priority, as inequalities between populations persist. According to former secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, a continued, strategic focus on under-5s is imperative, with particular emphasis on the structural and social determinants of health. Looking now toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Bangladesh’s triumph can be used to build a framework to ensure continued progress in the realms of child and neonatal health.