Former Health Minister Among Time’s 100 Most Influential People

May 2, 2024

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Former Bangladeshi Health Minister Zahid Maleque has been named one of the 100 most influential people in healthcare by the renowned American magazine Time. Maleque, who currently serves as a Member of Parliament for Manikganj-3 constituency (Manikganj Sadar and Saturia), received recognition for his contributions to the field of health.

During his five-year tenure as the Health and Family Welfare Minister in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet, Maleque faced criticism for his initial response to the pandemic. However, he successfully implemented an effective vaccination program that resulted in Bangladesh having less than half the per capita deaths compared to neighboring India. Maleque is being praised for his efforts in improving the lives of the country’s 170 million citizens. Under his leadership, Bangladesh made history in 2023 by eradicating the mosquito-borne disease visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar), which has a 95% fatality rate if left untreated. The same year, the country also succeeded in eliminating lymphatic filariasis, another mosquito-borne parasitic disease.

Bangladesh became the first nation in history to eliminate two non-communicable diseases in a single year. Prior to this, Maleque was honored by the World Health Organization (WHO) for significantly reducing child mortality rates and spearheading efforts to reduce lead content in turmeric, which hinders children’s cognitive development and causes thousands of deaths annually.

As a vocal backer of Bangladesh’s autocratic Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Zahid Maleque’s five years as Minister of Health and Family Welfare weren’t without controversy. He fended off graft allegations and faced fierce criticism for his early pandemic response, before overseeing an effective vaccination program that meant the densely populated South Asian nation suffered less than half the per capita deaths of neighboring India. But despite relinquishing his post in January, Maleque continues to be lauded for improving the well-being of his 175 million compatriots.

Bangladesh made history in 2023 as the first country anywhere to eliminate kala-azar, otherwise known as visceral leishmaniasis, a disease transmitted by sand flies that is 95% fatal when left untreated. Also last year, Bangladesh succeeded in stamping out lymphatic filariasis, a debilitating parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes. These twin successes make it the first nation in history to eradicate two noncommunicable diseases in a single year.

Previously feted by the WHO for drastically reducing child mortality, Maleque also spearheaded efforts to cut the lead content in turmeric in Bangladesh, a scourge thought to stunt cognitive development in children and claim thousands of lives every year. He now serves as a Member of Parliament.

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