The government is gearing up to allocate a substantial $27 billion budget for the forthcoming five-year health sector plan, marking a 52.5% increase from the current program concluding in June 2024.
This ambitious plan, set to kick off in July 2024, revolves around achieving universal health coverage with a particular emphasis on urban primary health care and addressing the health implications of climate change.
However, experts caution that tangible progress may remain out of reach without a clear roadmap and effective coordination among different programs within the health sector plan.
The fifth edition of the Health, Population, and Nutrition Sector Programme (HPNSP) currently lacks a well-defined strategy to handle health emergencies like COVID-19, dengue outbreaks, or natural disasters.
While the proposal is not yet finalized, it awaits approval by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council in the first quarter of the following year. It also consults with donor agencies, primarily the World Bank, for financial support.
The World Bank estimates the budget for this plan to fall within the range of $24 billion to $27 billion. The government finances most of the budget, with development partners contributing 5 to 10% in soft loans. Discussions are ongoing to secure additional funding from development partners, potentially through higher-interest-rate loans.
According to the World Bank, the ongoing health sector plan faces a financing gap of $460 million, which must be addressed before its conclusion in June 2024, which has already provided $550 million toward the program.
Despite significant progress in healthcare, Bangladesh still grapples with disparities in healthcare access and service quality, as reported by the World Bank.
While basic child immunization coverage increased from 85% between 2007 and 2017-18, disparities persist. Access to antenatal care (ANC) remains unequal, particularly in urban slums.
Urban areas are witnessing a growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including hypertension and diabetes.
Addressing these disparities and the rising NCD crisis is critical to the government’s healthcare strategy.
Urban areas in Bangladesh, especially Dhaka, also face ongoing challenges with diseases such as water-borne illnesses, dengue, and COVID-19. Dengue outbreaks have resurged recently, exacerbated by limited disease and vector surveillance, climate change, and rapid urbanization.
Environmental issues, like improper medical waste management and climate change’s impact on public health, further complicate urban healthcare.
The upcoming sector program will include a new operational plan to ensure primary healthcare for the urban population and address the health implications of climate change.
The project also aims to enhance collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Cooperatives to provide urban primary healthcare services effectively.