Overview of Australia’s aid program to Bangladesh

How we are helping

2013/14 Actual:
$85.5 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate:
$94.2 million

Australia’s development assistance to Bangladesh works in our interests by promoting economic growth, human development and stability in a region that is of growing strategic significance for Australia. Australia is the sixth largest bilateral donor in Bangladesh. Our aid has a strong gender focus, empowering girls by improving the quality of education and increasing economic opportunities for women. Australia also works regionally to reduce barriers to regional trade to accelerate economic growth.

Bangladesh’s development indicators in poverty, education and health are all improving and economic growth remains steady at around 6 per cent annually. Nevertheless severe challenges to inclusive growth and economic development remain. Around 43 per cent of Bangladesh’s population still live on less than $1.25 per day, the highest poverty rate in South Asia. Skill levels are low with one quarter of all children enrolled in grade one not completing primary school. Bangladeshi women in particular are disadvantaged. They have relatively low levels of literacy, limited mobility, are held back from leadership roles and suffer from high rates of domestic violence. Poor trade connectivity between South Asian countries and an inadequate supply of energy are also constraining Bangladesh’s progress toward becoming a middle income country.

Australia's aid program to Bangladesh addresses these challenges by supporting improvements in education outcomes and increasing economic opportunities for the poor, especially women. Australia is working with the Government of Bangladesh on reforms to build the quality of primary education and is widening access so that more children from poor families can attend school. Our support is building resilience in the community by providing humanitarian assistance and income generating opportunities for women and families in isolated areas of the country. At the national level Australia is strengthening the effectiveness of national social safety net programs.

Increased access to improved education services

Australia is funding the Government of Bangladesh’s Primary Education Development Program, which aims to build an efficient, inclusive, and equitable national primary education system. Australia works with the Government and other donors to strengthen the quality of education and through BRAC (one of the world’s largest NGOs) is also ensuring more girls and boys from extremely poor families get the opportunity to go to school. Our assistance is helping to develop a productive and inclusive workforce in Bangladesh that can maintain the country’s strong record of economic growth.

Education assistance in Bangladesh

Fewer women and men living in extreme poverty and vulnerable to economic and natural shocks

Australia is building the resilience of Bangladeshis, especially women and girls, through a range of partnerships. Our work with BRAC, the United Kingdom and the World Food Programme is providing humanitarian and economic empowerment programs directly to Bangladesh’s poor, including in the particularly vulnerable areas of the country. This assistance can take the form of cash transfers, school feeding, access to free health care and training in ways to manage income generating assets (such as livestock). The programs provide a resourcing buffer that helps people meet their basic needs and cope with commonly occurring economic and natural shocks. BRAC’s program is gaining international recognition as an effective means to increase poor people’s income earning capacity, and is being replicated by BRAC and other organisations around the world. Australia is also working with the Government of Bangladesh and the United Kingdom to improve the efficiency of the Government’s national social protection programs.

Resilience to poverty in Bangladesh


Our results

Increased access to improved education

Results in the education program show that working through partnerships with Government and other development partners can produce large scale change. Achievements in the education program linked directly to Australia’s funding, policy advocacy and technical advice have included:

In 2013-14

  • Delivery of over one million primary text books country-wide on time with a streamlined government tendering process
  • Primary education services to over 20 million Bangladeshi children through Government schools, and to over one million children from extremely poor families through BRAC-supported pre-primary or primary schools
  • Completion of the second National Student Assessment, which is providing new information to Government about the quality of teaching
  • Accreditation for a new teaching diploma through Dhaka University, with implementation in 29 primary teacher training institutes in 2013, expanding to 36 in 2014.

Australia also provided 131 Australia Awards, comprising around 72 long-term and 59 short-term awards to Bangladesh for studies in priority areas of social and economic policy.

Resilience to poverty

In 2013-14

Australia provided direct support to extremely poor families and worked with partners to strengthen national social welfare policies. Our partnerships with BRAC and the United Kingdom helped 107,000 extremely poor women and their families by providing them with access to cash transfers, productive assets and training. Australia’s nutrition and food security support through the World Food Programme provided a safety net to more than 700 vulnerable families in Cox’s Bazar district. A draft social security policy developed by the Government of Bangladesh drew from economic analysis funded by Australia, while a study tour to South Africa, led by Australia, further built awareness of the economic benefits of strong social welfare systems among senior Bangladeshi officials.

Two smiling women in office look through printed papers
Volunteer Ngatho Mugo researches maternal and child health at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health (credit: DFAT).
Child walking through alley carrying books on his shoulder
Child prepares to leave for primary school (credit: DFAT).