Bangladesh’s urban population hits 41.7mn: Unicef

Among the top 21 mega cities of the world, according to the report, Dhaka ranks 9th position with 14.3 million people, while Tokyo 1st with 36.5 million, Delhi 2nd with 21.7 million, Sao Paolo 3rd with 20.0 million.

Unicef Bangladesh officially launched the global report titled ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World’ at National Press Club.

Planning secretary Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam, economist and chairman of Janata Bank Prof Abul Barkat, Unicef representative in Dhaka Pascal Villeneuve, and 13-year old child representative Moushumi Akhter were, among others, present on the occasion.

The report says the HIV prevalence remains generally higher in urban areas in Bangladesh. A 2010 review of estimates from more than 60 countries found that while HIV infection rate had stabilised or decreased in most countries, including those worst affected, it had risen by more than 25 percent in seven countries - Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Tajikistan.

While parents in Dhaka spend on average 10 percent of household income per child on schooling costs, this rises to 20 percent in the poorest families.

According to 2009 data of Unicef, the differences were even more pronounced at the secondary level. About 18 percent of children in slums attended secondary school, compared to 53 percent in urban areas as a whole and 48 percent in rural areas.

There is growing evidence that living in a socio-economically disadvantaged urban areas increases the under-five mortality even after the data have been adjusted for factors such as mother’s education or income.

For instance, in Bangladesh, recent data 2009 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey indicate that the under-five mortality rate in slums is 79 percent higher than the overall urban rate and 44 percent higher than the rural rate.

About the global state of children, the report reveals that urbanisation leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services. In a few years, the report says, the majority of children will grow up in towns or cities rather than in rural areas. Children born in cities already account for 60 percent of the increase in urban population.

Speaking on the occasion, Unicef representative Pascal Villeneuve urged the government and other partners to address the rights of children living in poor urban communities, particularly those living in the slums.

“Children in slums and deprived neighborhoods are often invisible to decision makers and lost in a hazy world of statistical averages that conceal grave inequalities,” he said.

Unicef urged governments to put children at the heart of urban planning and to extend and improve services for all. To start, more focused, accurate data are needed to help identify disparities among children in urban areas and how to bridge them. The shortage of such
data is evidence of the neglect of these issues.

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