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Bangladesh is marking 50 years since the end of the war that created the country

People gather to pay their respects at the 1971 independence war martyrs national memorial to celebrate the 50th Victory Day, which marks the end of a nine-month war of independence from Pakistan, in Savar, Bangladesh, on Thursday.
Munir Uz Zaman
/
AFP via Getty Images
People gather to pay their respects at the 1971 independence war martyrs national memorial to celebrate the 50th Victory Day, which marks the end of a nine-month war of independence from Pakistan, in Savar, Bangladesh, on Thursday.

Updated December 16, 2021 at 11:11 AM ET

MUMBAI, India — Government buildings in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka lit up in the colors of their national flag Thursday, as part of celebrations and memorials across the country on the 50th anniversary of its birth.

President M. Abdul Hamid inspected troops in the morning at a military parade. And he joined Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to lay wreaths at a national memorial to those killed in the country's liberation war.

Bangladesh was created on Dec. 16, 1971, in what was previously called East Pakistan. Up to 3 million people died in a nine-month war that ended that day with Pakistan's surrender.

But the fledgling country was beset by disease and poverty. Up to 10 million people became refugees.

What a difference 50 years makes.

In the half-century since its creation, Bangladesh has made a remarkable turnaround: Life expectancy has gone from 46 years to 72. Infant mortality has declined from nearly 150 deaths per 1,000 births to 26. The International Monetary Fund says Bangladesh's gross domestic product is on track to soon exceed that of Denmark and Singapore.

"It is definitely a success story, how much we have progressed," says Farria Naeem, a Dhaka-based economist with the International Growth Centre.

Bangladesh has come far in the 50 years since its birth, but now climate change threatens its next half-century.


A version of this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.