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Indo-Bangladesh Dialogue: Nobel Laureates Explain Education and Health Scenarios

Two Nobel Laureates from Bangladesh and India shared their insights on the issues of education and health in the South Asian region at a dialogue jointly organised by the CPD, BRAC and Pratichi Trust in association with the UNICEF Bangladesh. The two-day Indo-Bangladesh Dialogue on Health and Education: Learning from Neighbours was held on 13-14 February 2010 at the BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka.

Noble Laureates Professor Amartya Sen, Professor Muhammad Yunus, and Sir F H Abed, were the panelists for a session on the first day titled Ensuring Health for All: How can it be Ensured? with Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman of CPD, in the chair. The second day of the conference was devoted to discussion on education.

A press conference was held at the end of the two-day dialogue.

In his opening remark Professor Sen said economic advancement is the key to solve the health and education-related problems in the two neighbouring countries. He mentioned that disparity between men and women, especially negligence to women is a serious problem in South Asia as this affects the next generation’s health and life expectancy. Sen observed that there is no short-cut way to resolve health and education problems in the region but insisted to have a multidimensional and combined efforts. He also noted that general education has a great role in improving health situation. Sen said the role of education and health should be supplementary. He also stressed the need to address malnutrition. In this connection he brought in the issue of providing meals during school hours which will help reduce drop-outs. The Noble Laureate observed that many people do not get health services due to lack of democratic practices in many parts of the world. He laid stress on expanding the extent and quality of health services in the public sector. For success of the health and education sectors, problems should be identified first and at the same time, the role of the government, private and NGO sector should be supplementary to one another, he added.

Professor Yunus pointed out that there might be difference of opinion on the ways of delivering health services. But the debate should not continue by keeping the health services suspended at field level. Referring to the Grameen Bank experience Professor Yunus stated that the physicians are reluctant to stay in the village. The Grameen Bank is attaching importance to using modern equipment in this regard. He said that the distance between the physicians and the patients can be reduced by using mobile phones.

Both the Noble Laureates mentioned that Bangladesh and India could learn from Japan and Europe who had made tremendous success in the 19th century to improve their health condition.

During the conference Bangladesh Health Watch Report 2009 was also launched. The conference was attended by eminent experts on health and education from India and Bangladesh including Anil Bordia, Chair, Foundation for Education and Development, India and Professor R Govinda, Vice Chancellor of Educational Planning and Administration, India.

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