Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to welcome His Excellency General Ershad and the Begum Ershad here this evening and to be able to reciprocate the warm hospitality given to my wife and I on Tuesday evening. Our visit to Dhaka has indeed been made memorable by the kindness shown to us at all levels.
It has given me great pleasure to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of my accession to the Imamat of the Shia Ismaili Muslims here in Dhaka.
Your Excellency was kind enough to refer on Tuesday to the humanitarian activities of the Imamat and to my commitment to the cause of the people of the Third World. Our institutions, as I have said elsewhere today, operate in the areas of both welfare, particularly health and education, and economic development.
In 1967 I established the Aga Khan Foundation in Geneva to build further on the structure of welfare services which my grandfather had founded, and to help resolve social development problems, such as the support of impoverished rural populations. The Foundation now has affiliates in seven countries, including Bangladesh. It collaborates with other international agencies and was officially recognised by the United Nations Development Programme in 1980. I am told that it is today one of the largest international foundations in terms of its yearly commitments in the Third World.
In recent years, we have become increasingly concerned with two issues, both fundamental to development in the Third World.
The first is how to improve the living standards of ordinary people, especially those in rural areas who constitute the great majority of Third World population--here no less than 90 percent --and whose living conditions are so often markedly inferior to those of city dwellers. Secondly, we are concerned with the impact of world recession on the developing countries and how it can best be countered.
With regards to the living standards of ordinary people, one of the most distressing challenges facing us is child mortality. It is estimated that a million and a half children die each year of cholera and related infections. Research into these diseases has its worldwide focal point here in Bangladesh at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.
Most happily the ICDDR has developed a treatment for the disease-- the oral rehydration therapy--which is now being refined, using cereals available to virtually every rural family. I am happy to say that field testing of this new rice-based formula has been enabled to start in two areas of Bangladesh with the aid of a grant from the Aga Khan Foundation. Among the Foundation's projects worldwide, the largest is the Aga Khan University in Karachi, which has evolved from the Aga Khan Hospital and Medical college we are building there. The University will I hope address itself to Third World problems in a way that many existing universities have failed to, especially taking into account the fact that Third World populations are predominantly rural, not urban.
Whereas the Aga Khan foundation acts as a catalyst in generating social programmes, our Industrial Promotion Services companies have been established since 1963 to be an agency of the Imamat's economic developments in the Third World. IPS has promoted industrial, financial and tourism projects in many countries, including the Ivory Coast, Zaire, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Pakistan and elsewhere. Not simply to make a profit, but to invest in constructive development that is of genuine value to the countries concerned, such as we hope the IPDC will achieve here in Bangladesh.
During this visit I have seen for myself how your Excellency's Government is striving to improve the administration of the country and the lives of its people. It is my sincere hope that the programmes we have initiated here and our institutions working worldwide will contribute towards those sound foundations for the progress of Bangladesh and on this occasion of my Silver Jubilee visit I take great pleasure in announcing that I have approved the plan for two new health facilities. These will be small non-communal health centres designed to provide immunisation and preventive services for mothers and children.
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