In July 2011, Autism Speaks, in partnership with Bangladesh and the World Health Organization, launched the Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) initiative in Bangladesh. In the year since, Bangladesh has taken pioneering steps to overcome barriers to services for individuals with autism. This week, GAPH-Bangladesh released a report titled, “One Year of Progress on Autism in Bangladesh.” The report outlines their activities in promoting autism awareness, services and research.
The group also presented a strategic action plan for autism to the president of Bangladesh. The plan reflects the collaborative efforts of eight Bangladeshi government ministries. It provides comprehensive recommendations to address identified gaps in awareness, education, services and research. In response, President Zillur Rahman expressed great commitment to making autism a government priority.
“No other country in the South East Asia Region has committed itself quite so strategically to developing systems which address the needs of persons with autism and the difficult situation faced by their families,” GAPH-Bangladesh writes in its press release. Saima Hossain, the chair of GAPH-Bangladesh, is a school psychologist and daughter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed. She is a driving force behind Bangladesh’s leadership in advancing the cause of autism in South East Asia and worldwide.
"GAPH is having an immediate and immeasurable impact on the Bangladesh autism community,” says Michael Rosanoff, M.P.H., Autism Speaks associate director of public health research and scientific review. “I am so grateful that Autism Speaks has had the opportunity to work with Bangladesh and its leadership. Bangladesh is setting an example for the rest of the world."
In an email sent from Bangladesh last week, Rosanoff adds, "A mother of a child with autism told me that we 'have dried her tears today'."
As part of World Autism Awareness Day this past April, the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh and Autism Speaks co-hosted a United Nations panel on autism. The panel brought the international community together in an effort to shed light on autism’s effect on families around the world.