Zahid Maleque

Disease fighter

1 minute read

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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