Bangladesh had about 72,508 stillbirths in 2019, with a rate of 24.3 stillbirths per 1,000 births, according to the first ever joint UN estimate.
At the rate of 41.4 stillbirths per 1,000 births, the number of stillbirths in Bangladesh in 2000 was about 1.51 lakh, which means the incidents of stillbirths in the country has declined by 52.2% between 2000 and 2019.
The report named "A Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths" was released by UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank Group and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs on Thursday.
The report highlighted that a vast majority of stillbirths – around 84% – occur in low and lower-middle-income countries.
A stillbirth is defined in the report as a baby born with no signs of life at 28 weeks of pregnancy or more.
Kinkor Ghosh, an epidemiologist at Dhaka Shishu Hospital, told the Business Standard, "At present, institutional delivery has increased in the country, while prenatal care has also increased. For this reason, stillbirth rate decreased."
Meanwhile, former director of the Institute of Health Economics at Dhaka University Prof Syed Abdul Hamid said, "There is no single targeted policy to reduce stillbirths in Bangladesh."
"The fact that we made such progress even without such a policy reflects the positive force of the government's integrated healthcare services as well as the growing level of awareness among pregnant women."
He said now parents make better plans for giving birth to a child with the help of health care services including antenatal care and institutional delivery, access to which has become easier in recent years.
The decrease in number of stillbirths might also be a reflection of the country's decreasing poverty rate, Prof Syed Abdul Hamid added.
Bangladesh ranked 3rd in reducing stillbirth in South Asia
In terms of the decline in the total number of stillbirths from 2000 to 2019 in 20 years, India topped the list of countries in this region, with a reduction of 60%.
The total number of stillbirths in that country declined from around 8.52 lakh in 2000 to around 3.40 lakh in 2019.
India is followed by Nepal (58.6%), Bangladesh (52.2%), Bhutan (52.1%), the Maldives (51.2%) and Sri Lanka (46.1%).
Pakistan and Afghanistan fell at the bottom in South Asia with the reduction of stillbirths by only 7% and 10%, respectively.
The report said that some progress was made globally in reducing the stillbirth rate over the past two decades, which declined from 21.4 stillbirths per 1,000 births in 2000 to 13.9 in 2019 – a reduction of 35%.
Moreover, the total number of stillbirths globally declined by 32%, from 2.9 million in 2000 to 2.0 million in 2019.
Notably, the report also said these declines have not kept pace with progress in under-five mortality.
The world has suffered the tremendous loss of 48 million stillbirths in the past two decades.
The report warned, if current trends continue, an additional 20 million stillbirths will occur before 2030, placing immense and unjust strain on women, families and society.
The Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) calls for each country to achieve a rate of 12 stillbirths or fewer per 1,000 births by 2030 and to close equity gaps.
The report mentioned that 56 countries are at risk of missing the ENAP stillbirth target including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan from Central and Southern Asia.
Regarding the ENAP target, Prof Syed Abdul Hamid said our government's health system policy is already focused on maternal and child health, but it needs to be implemented more effectively.
He further said, "We should raise more awareness among the pregnant women in low income families. Besides, basic antenatal care service has to be fully ensured with proper trainers."