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Area: 143,998 sq km
Population: 161.3 million
Languages: Bengali, English
Religions: Muslim, Hindu
GNI per capita: US$470
Currency: BDT (taka);1USD = 68.5 taka

Formerly East Pakistan, Bangladesh came into being only in 1971, when the two parts of Pakistan split after a bitter civil war which drew in neighboring India. Bangladesh spent 15 years under military rule and, although democracy was restored in 1990, the political scene remains volatile. Political tensions have spilled over into violence; hundreds of people have been killed in recent years. 

The flat delta of the Brahmaputra and Ganges Rivers covers most of Bangladesh—much of the country is below sea level. Each year from May to October the tropical monsoon, a season of heavy rains, brings serious flooding to most of the country. While the floodwaters deposit fertile soil, they also spread deadly diseases such as cholera.

Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries, with its people crammed into a delta of rivers that empties into the Bay of Bengal. Poverty is deep and widespread; almost half of the population lives on less than one dollar a day. However, Bangladesh has reduced population growth and improved health and education.

The major employer is agriculture, but it is unable to meet the demand for jobs. Thus many Bangladeshis - in common with citizens from other countries in the region - seek work abroad, sometimes illegally. The country is trying to diversify its economy, with industrial development a priority.