be back here in Bangladesh after too many years away. I am very grateful to the foreign minister for her warm and gracious welcome and the substantive conversations that we just concluded, and I am looking forward to seeing the prime minister to continue those discussions.
I am sorry that I missed the festivities for Bengali New Year. I know you put on quite a colorful celebration here in Dhaka. And I hope this will be a very successful, positive year for progress, peace, and prosperity for Bangladesh and for the friendship between our countries. That friendship goes back decades, and it is rooted in our shared democratic values, our strong economic ties, and our deep people-to-people connections.
Today, we are working together to help solve some of Bangladesh’s most pressing challenges, from disaster response to healthcare, from food security to climate change. Bangladesh represents one of the largest development assistance commitments that the Obama Administration has made.
Today, I congratulated the foreign minister on the impressive progress that Bangladesh is making on a number of important issues. Bangladesh is on track to meet many Millennium Development Goals by 2015 with a particular emphasis on saving the lives of mothers and children. The rates of maternal and child mortality have dropped; the rate of poverty has dropped, and that is a great tribute to the commitment that Bangladesh and the people of this country have made to improving the lives of all of your citizens.
And I also wish to acknowledge that Bangladesh has joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which both helps saves lives by promoting clean-burning stoves and fuels and also helps save the environment by removing black carbon and soot from the atmosphere. The people of Bangladesh are setting an example for people everywhere in how to meet similar challenges.
We also discussed Bangladesh’s growing contributions on the regional and global stage. This country’s world-renowned experts on cholera traveled to Haiti, Somalia, and elsewhere to help fight deadly outbreaks. We are working together to ensure that foreign terrorist groups cannot use Bangladeshi territory to launch attacks. And Bangladesh contributes more personnel to United Nations peacekeeping operations than any other country in the world.
We also discussed how both the people of Bangladesh and its neighbors, Burma and India, are making progress together. Bangladesh is ideally geographically situated to serve as a land bridge for trade between the dynamic Asia Pacific region and the huge economic potential of South Asia. And we are pleased to see the reforms occurring in Burma, because that also holds great benefits, first and foremost for the people of that country, but also for its neighbor, Bangladesh.
And we discussed the continuing challenge that the thousands of Rohingya refugees currently living in Bangladesh and in other countries pose and that perhaps now, with the reforms going on in Burma, we can begin looking for solutions.
So there is a great, deep, rich, comprehensive agenda between the two countries, and that is why