Statement on NCD at the 66th UNGA on 19 Sept 2011

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalamu Alaikum and Good Morning

I am happy to speak before you on the issue of non-communicable diseases, or NCD’s, which are a growing developmental challenge in Bangladesh, as well as the world. I hope our meeting today will help raise our concerns and work towards developing common approaches to non-communicable diseases.

Mr. President,

Mankind’s steady growth and strive towards economic prosperity, sometimes leaves little space for environmental and health considerations, at a great cost to our population health. The ever growing requirements on agriculture and industry have lead to unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, pollution, unmanageable urbanization and degradation of ecology. These changing conditions have in turn given rise to the growth of NCDs like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, pulmonary ailments, and cancer. NCD now account for 60% of global mortality and 61 % in Bangladesh.


Sadly, NCD prevention and control programs have remained a low priority for national and international engagements. But it is increasingly clear that we can no longer ignore these problems. And as part and parcel of combating the NCD’s we need to pay more attention to the use of food additives, chemicals, residual pollutants, enzymes, hormones, and even try to curb the excessive use of antibiotics.

NCD’s affect both the rich and the poor, but their worst impact can be seen in working adults where the deceases put a great social and economic burden on families. Deaths are usually premature following prolonged suffering. This entails expenditure which families meet by reducing essential consumption, borrowing money and selling assets. Squeezed for money, the affected households often need to lower the quality of their food, which then impacts the overall development of their children. This silent epidemic plunges people into poverty, in turn slowing economic growth especially in poor countries like ours.

Thankfully there are some very concise steps we can take to control the NCD’s. We need tobacco control as well as regulation of the unfettered food and beverage industries. We also need to distribute information on what constitutes a healthy diet as well as encourage physical activity. Pollution control, clean technology, and environment friendly waste management are equally important. Also, important are availability of health facilities. In the developing world, our health systems are limited to primary health care, with some referral hospitals where doctors can look after NCD’s. The private health centers offer services which are either inadequate or prohibitively expensive. There is, therefore, need for more health facilities and specialized hospitals on specific and major NCDs like cancer, heart and lung diseases, mental health etc.


In recent years, in Bangladesh, we have started committing additional resources to control NCDs, imposing higher taxes on tobacco, banning smoking in public places, setting up diabetic association in towns, initiating community based mental health promotion and blindness prevention programs in rural areas. We are also developing specialized hospitals, as well as offering incentives to the private sector to build modern health facilities.

We have also taken important steps integrating autism and other developmental disorders in our existing healthcare program. In July of this year we held a high level international conference on autism in Dhaka, and created a regional coalition. The Dhaka Declaration calls for immediate action to increase access to services and ensure adequate and timely treatment and care. It also calls for mobilization of increased human and financial resources for the healthcare of children with developmental disorders.

The challenges of NCDs require matching resources which can be generated by public-private partnerships. The World Health Report 2010 has aptly covered innovative financing and health insurance. Despite them all, the fact remains that we need unqualified support and enhanced resources from all our development partners. High on the list are easy transfer of technology and access to medicines at affordable prices. Indeed by actually rising above national considerations, together we can prevent and control NCDs and realize our common goals on health and development.

I thank you.

Khoda Hafez!
Joi Bangla! Joi Bangabandhu!

May Bangladesh Live Forever!