Bangladesh is the poorest country in the South East Asia and is ranked 159th of 190 countries on the Human Development Index Although Bangladesh had a basic health care infrastructure in the 1980s, much remained to be done, particularly in rural areas, where the majority of the people faced critical health problems. The main dangers to health in the late 1980s were much the same as they were at the time of independence. The incidence of communicable disease was extensive, and there was widespread malnutrition, inadequate sewage disposal, and inadequate supplies of safe drinking water. The fertility rate was also extremely high.
Only 30 percent of the population had access to primary health care services, and overall health care performance remained unacceptably low by all conventional measurements. Life expectancy at birth in FY 1985, according to official Bangladesh statistics was estimated at 55.1 years, as opposed to 61 years in comparable developing countries. Morbidity and mortality rates for women and children were high. Infant mortality rates exceeded 125 deaths per 1,000 live birth, the maternal mortality rate was 6 per 1,000 live birth, and 56.1 percent of infants suffered from chronic malnutrition. More than 45 percent of rural families and 76 percent of urban families were below the acceptable caloric intake level. About two-thirds of all families received insufficient protein and vitamins.