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27 April 2015, New York. BRAC, an organization with deep roots in nearby Bangladesh, is sending an emergency response team to Nepal to provide immediate assistance and long-term relief following the earthquake that to date has killed more than 3,000 people.  

BRAC and its North American affiliate, BRAC USA, are calling on supporters to assist its emergency response to the Nepal earthquake. From its headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, BRAC is sending a team to Nepal to provide blankets, medical treatment, essential medicine and dry food to earthquake victims.  BRAC is uniquely positioned to provide emergency support due to its proximity and experience.  

“We have years of experience in emergency disaster response,” said Shahinul Hoque Ripon, a doctor from BRAC who will lead the team. “We successfully carried out operations in Haiti, after the devastating earthquake in 2010, Sri Lanka, and in Indonesia after the deadly tsunami in 2004. Our core team will provide essential medical support to the victims in collaboration with the Nepalese government.”  

Nepal is struggling to cope with the aftermath of one of the strongest earthquakes in recent history, which has killed more than 3,000 people to date.

“We are grateful to the people of Bangladesh for their genuine response to earthquake victims of Nepal," said the Nepalese ambassador to Bangladesh, Mr Hari Kumar Shrestha. “We are particularly thankful to BRAC for their decision to send an emergency medical team with essential medicines, blankets and food.”  

To donate please visit: bracusa.org/nepal_response

 

Friday, 24 April 2015 18:00

Medhabikash Education Summit 2015 held

25 April 2015, Dhaka. BRAC’s Medhabikash scholarship programme is playing an important role in helping underprivileged students in reaching their potential, said experts at the Medhabikash Summit held in Savar today. Medhabikash helps meritorious students from financially disadvantaged families to pursue post-secondary level studies.

Mr Md Nazrul Islam Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Education, attended the programme as the chief guest, while Dr Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, vice chairperson, BRAC, gave the welcome speech. The summit was attended by 300 male and female Medhabikash scholarships awardees.

Highlighting the importance of higher education, Ahmed Mushtaq R Chowdhury said, ‘ BRAC will support higher education to help Bangladesh to realise its full potential’.

Education secretary Mr Md Nazrul Islam Khan said, ‘BRAC’s Medhabikash Udyog is not merely a scholarship programme, it is a unique initiative to build and improve skills. Aided by this programme, many underprivileged but meritorious students are able to achieve higher education.  We hope that BRAC will continue such efforts’.

The daylong event included three panel discussions where corporate heads, media personalities and journalists participated. Speakers at the first panel discussions included medhabikash scholarship awardees. The second panel highlighted alternative career choices, which was attended by famous singer and actor Tahsan Khan, Film and ad maker Amitabh Reza, activist and environmental lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan, USA woman of courage award winner journalist Nadia Sharmeen. Corporate heads like Rabi’s CSO and head of m-commerce Rubaba Dowla, group director of Rahimaafrooz Niaz Rahim, senior vice president of BRAC Bank Zara Jabeen Mahbub were amongst the third panel discussion.

Medhabikash Udyog programme has awarded 3542 scholarships from 2005 to 2014.
 

24 April 2015 

On the two-year anniversary of Rana Plaza, the fund for victims of the 2013 Bangladesh factory collapse is still $3 million short of what is needed for fair compensation



BRAC USA, the North American affiliate of the Bangladesh-based anti-poverty organization BRAC, is calling on donors to close the $3 million dollar funding gap to reach the $30 million needed to compensate victims of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse.

BRAC USA has welcomed several new contributions this week, including a pledge by The Children’s Place to match donations up to $2 million to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund. But more is needed, the organization says.

When the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed on April 24, 2013, more than 1,100 garment workers died and more than 2,500 were injured, many severely. In 2014, on the one-year anniversary of the event, BRAC USA, a 501(c)3 created the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund to provide aid to survivors and support for workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry. Donations earmarked for the Rana Plaza Donors Trust can be directed through BRAC USA.

“Bangladesh has seen significant gains in living standards, halving poverty rates in the last 20 years, thanks largely to women’s empowerment. The garment industry has played a tremendous role in this,” Sir FazleHasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC, said at the time of the fund’s creation. “But these gains will mean little if we allow tragedies like Rana Plaza to continue. The words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ should be a mark of pride, not shame.”

The Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund accepts donations to support Bangladesh garment workers from corporations, foundations and the general public.

The Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund supports survivors and victims’ families with direct payments given through the Rana Plaza Donors Trust, as well as through support provided via BRAC, whose programs for Rana Plaza victims include prosthetics for amputees, counseling, psycho-social support, livelihood training, long-term medical support, and seed capital for survivors to start new businesses.

To date, BRAC USA’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund has raised $5.43 million, with donors including Walmart, Asda, Walmart Foundation, The Children’s Place, The Gap Foundation, and VF Foundation. From these contributions, BRAC USA has granted $2,205,000 to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust, with another $275,000 grant forthcoming.

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust was set up in January 2014 under the Rana Plaza Arrangement, a multi-stakeholder coalition of government, employers, workers, retailers and civil society, with the International Labor Organization serving as neutral chair.

Meanwhile, BRAC University’s Institute of Educational Development is pursuing systemic long-term solutions to the problems of workplace safety in the Bangladesh garment industry. It is conducting a mapping study to cover the vast network of garment factories and subcontractors in need of building upgrades to meet safety standards.
 

Migration Programme, BRAC  started two national human rights and migrant workers training for the government officials specially the District Employment and Manpower Officials on 15 -16 April 2015 and on 19 - 20 April 2015 at the conference room  of  BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka. The training participants are the representatives from concerned ministries and district employment and manpower officials.

The training is covering the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), UN Convention 1990 on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Constitution of Bangladesh, Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013, gender and other important national and international instruments for protecting migrants' rights. We believe the training will help the government officials to protect the migrants' rights at the district level.

In 2011, Government of Bangladesh has ratified International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and in 2013, Bangladesh also enacted Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013. 

Mr Khandaker Md Iftekhar Haider, Secretary, Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment will present as the Chief Guest, Begum Shamsun Nahar, Director General, Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training will present as a chair. Ms Sheepa Hafiza, Gender Justice and Diversity and Migration Programme will moderate the closing ceremony on 20 April 2015.

The relaunching of the Maya website with Sir Fazle Hasan Abed(left), Zunaid Ahmed Palak(center left), His Excellency Mr. Greg Wilcock(center right), and Paul Whittingham(right).


BRAC-Maya partnership launched their enhanced website and mobile app today at an official ceremony in Dhaka. maya.com.bd is the first website of its kind in Bangladesh  with an aim to connect women with the information they are looking for, when they are looking for it.

With the support of Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and UK Aid from the British Government, BRAC embarked on its collaborative work with Maya. BRAC-Maya partnership showcases a unique public-private initiative, working with the common goal of women's empowerment and gender justice. The Australian High Commissioner His Excellency Mr Greg Wilcock hosted the launching ceremony at his Gulshan residence alongside BRAC’s other strategic partner, the UK.

At the event, BRAC-Maya presented two of its products - the newly revamped BRAC-Maya site with localised content on women's workplace environment, health, legal and social issues and mobile platform based question-answer app, ‘Maya Apa’, the first of its kind in Bangladesh. 

At the launching ceremony Australian High Commissioner His Excellency Greg Wilcock said, “Australia is a strong supporter of innovative ways of addressing poverty and empowering poor men and women.  We are very proud to be associated with the Maya app, and the potential it has to help women and girls make more informed choices on health, legal and psychosocial issues”.

Sheepa Hafiza, Director, BRAC Gender Justice and Diversity said,“We expect this ground breaking project will bring rapid changes in bridging digital divide in Bangladesh between classes, locality and sex. By leveraging the power of information through web and the app , it will help women to take their own decision about the issues which are mostly untold and hidden like an ice berg, but extremely important for survival and to be powerful.”

Ivy H Russell, founder of Maya, added, “We are excited to launch the revamped maya.com.bd website which has more user friendly features and most importantly, fully integrated with our Maya Apa app. We are motivated to continue innovating with the Maya Apa app. Our mission is to connect women to the knowledge they are looking for through easily available technology when they are looking for it. Our website and app aim to bridge the digital divide by providing information to women and empowering women of all walks of life in Bangladesh.  May Apa app  is available on Google Play Store for immediate download and usage”.

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the major public health problems in Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries for decades. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Bangladesh ranks seventh among the 22 highest TB-burdened countries. Government, Donor Agencies and NGOs came forward to combat the control of TB.

BRAC considered tuberculosis control work as early as 1984 and in 1994 BRAC became the first NGO in the country to sign a MOU with the government of Bangladesh to expand directly observed treatment short course (DOTS) services across the country.

BRAC also became a principle recipient (PR) of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), along with the government. The aim of the programme is to reduce the morbidity, mortality and transmission of TB to eliminate its presence as a public health problem.
According to The Bangladesh Today, ‘In 2014 one lakh 91 thousand and 155 patients have been diagnosed with tuberculosis under the National TB Control Programme in the country. In 2013 the success rate of TB treatment was 94 per cent in Bangladesh.’

In 2014, a number of 43 organisations showed solidarity, 792 news on newspapers and 83 articles on TB has been observed. The role of media is undoubtedly imperative to create awareness about tuberculosis in mass people. In Bangladesh media is definitely leaving remarkable contribution to promote understanding of TB side by side of Government of Bangladesh, NGOs and other stakeholders.

On 24 March 2015, three national media houses and 23 journalists from national and local newspapers have been honoured with BRAC Media Award 2015 for their special reports on tuberculosis issues. The prime news contributors received the award from the honourable minister of the ministry of health and family welfare on World TB Day at BRAC Centre Auditorium. The event was chaired By Dr Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, vice-chairperson and interim executive director of BRAC and chief guests was Mr. Mohammad Nasim, MP, Honourable Minister of Health and Family Welfare; special guests were, Dr. Md. Ahmed Hussain Khan, Director, MBDC & TB-Leprosy; NTP, Dr. Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, Country Representative, WHO and Prof. Dr. Deen Muhammad Nurul Haque, Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and  Family Welfare.

The BRAC Media Award has been organised for the 5th time since 2008. This year a three-member jury gave its judgment after a scrutiny of the reports submitted. Senior journalist Md Farid Hossain, former bureau chief of AP, chaired the jury with Shahnaz Munni, news editor, ATN Bangla, and Dr Asif Muztaba Mahmud, associate professor, respiratory medicine, IEDCR as the other members. Dr Mahmud acted as the technical expert for the jury.

The awards were given based on three main categories: print, electronic and online media reporting. The print media reports which are most in number were again divided into eight categories of seven divisions and national level in Bangladesh. 

The Daily Ittefaq, The Daily Observer and NTV (International Television Channel Ltd), have been awarded the prize this year in recognition of their involvement in increasing awareness about tuberculosis.

During the award giving ceremony, the awarded journalists/reporters overwhelmingly reflected on their experience of covering TB in the media. How social taboo often acts as a barrier to case identification, threat in increasing number of multiple drug resistance cases, need for more investigative reports, importance of spreading the preventive activities outside the capital city, TB is not a disease for the poor but all, and many more thoughts were shared by the present journalists and reporters. 
 

BRAC Pakistan’s entrepreneur Abida Perveen and her loan officer Nasreen Akhtar from Multan received the award for ‘Most Innovative MFI’ during the ninth Citi-PPAF Micro-entrepreneurship Awards 2014 held at Serena Hotel, Islamabad on 31 March 2015. Abida Perveen and Nasreen Akhtar also received USD 1,165 (PKR 120,000) as cash prize along with the award.

Jointly organised by Citi Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Citibank, and Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), the awards aim to recognise best practices, entrepreneurial skills, and leadership qualities of individual micro-entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Italian Ambassador in Pakistan, Mr Adriano Chiodi Cianfarani and federal minister for planning and development, Mr Ahsan Iqbal were the chief guests of the ceremony and they presented the awards to the winners for their extraordinary contributions to economic sustainability of their families as well as their communities.

The Pakistan Micro-finance Network (PMN) short listed potential award winners from 280 applicants from different organisations across Pakistan. The short listed applicants underwent a rigorous assessment process that studied both their business models and the impact they had on their communities. The panel of judges consisted of experts from IlM Ideas, World Bank Group, Bahria University, ILO, UNDP, Engro Foundation and NH Consultancy (Pvt) Ltd.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 18:00

WASH & CLEAN in the labour ward

A knowledge dissemination workshop on ‘WASH & CLEAN in the labour ward: A situation analysis in India and Bangladesh”was held on 25 March 2015 at BRAC Centre Auditorium.  The Bangladesh part of this study is a collaboration between BRAC and the University of Aberdeen, UK with funding support from the Soapbox Collaborative, UK. In the workshop, findings of the study on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and infection prevention practices in maternity unit of hospital was shared withstakeholders working in the field of maternal health.

Dr. Md Shah Nawaz, Additional Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh was present as the chief guest.Professor DrMdShamiul Islam, the Line Director of Hospital Services Management, Directorate General of Health Service was the special guest. Among the key speakers were Dr. Wendy J Graham, Professor of Obstetric Epidemiology, University of Aberdeen, UK, MS Suzanne Cross, Senior Programme Officer, The Soapbox Collaborative, UK andDrTanveenIshaque, Senior Research Associate, Research and Evaluation Division, BRAC. The session was chaired by Dr. Ahmed MushtaqueRaza Chowdhury, Vice Chairperson, BRAC. Academicians, researchers, policy makers, clinicians, professionals, microbiologists and representatives from national and international organisations were present in the session.

Bangladesh findings were shared by DrTanveenIshaque and MrsAtiya Rahman.One of the key findings of the study is that visual cleanliness does not always indicate microbiological safety. The cleaner environment might have fewer germs, but not necessary they are completely safe. Inadequacies in training on infection, prevention and control for healthcare providers and an absence of training for cleaners were identified. The majority of healthcare providers expressed their need to get formal infection prevention training for their cleaners and other health care providers. Lack of organizational policies and protocols for infection prevention and control, absence of formal infection control committee and relevant checklists for monitoring and quality control contributed to suboptimal standards of infection, prevention and control practices in the participating facilities. Staff motivation specifically cleaners of the health facilities were shaped by high level of dissatisfaction due to heavy workload and poor salary which ultimately affecting the overall infection prevention practices of the facilities.  Most women who received care from the participating facilities did not have any idea about the fatal consequences or risks that they or their baby might face as a result of exposure to an unsafe hospital environment.

In his speech, Dr. Md Shah Nawaz talked about some of the important characteristics of Bangladesh health sector.  Per capita health expenditure is only $27 dollar/ year. The rate of institutional delivery is 29%. He talked about the wide variation in the service provision between urban and rural setting. Even within the urban setting, wide variation exists. For example, cost of cesareans delivery varies widelyranging from BDT 4000 taka to overBDT 100,000. He mentioned that our health sector has good data storage and management information system. There is more than 180,000 service centres available all over the country. He gratefully recognisedthe valuable contribution of some of the distinguished guest present in the session and also requested others to come forward.

In his speech, DrMdShamiul Islam mentioned about the remarkable growth in health sector. However, there is lots of scope of improvement in service quality. There is clear relationship between infection and maternal mortality. So infection prevention and control is very important. Visual cleanliness is not sufficient. He mentioned that there is lots of rules, regulation and protocols ara available, but they are not properly implemented. He sought everyone’s support in the health sector. He thanked the team of this valuable and timely research and also welcomed more researchers to conduct evidence based researches.

In the concluding remark Dr. Ahmed MushtaqueRaza Chowdhury said that we all have a role to play in ensuring WASH and Clean practice. It is not just about having a protocol, rather there needs to be a detailed and clear strategy. Finally he thanked the researcher team, government officials and audience to be part of this knowledge dissemination strategy.

The dissemination session was followed by a consultative policy discussion session. National & international experts on health sectorwere given some of the priority areas of maternal health. They identified key issues under each area, suggested next step, proposed timeline and identify priority stakeholders for the programme implementation
 

24 March 2015, Dhaka. Three national media houses and 23 journalists from national and local newspapers have won the BRAC Media Award 2015 for their special reports on tuberculosis issues. The winners will receive the award from the honourable minister of the ministry of health and family welfare at a grand ceremony on march 24, World TB Day. This award ceremony is one of the major events organised on the occasion of the day in the country. 

A three-member jury gave its judgment after a scrutiny of the reports submitted. Senior journalist Md Farid Hossain, former bureau chief of AP, chaired the jury with Shahnaz Munni, news editor, ATN Bangla, and Dr Asif Muztaba Mahmud as the other members. Dr Mahmud acted as the technical expert for the jury.

The awards were given under three main categories: print, electronic and online media reporting. The print media reports which are most in number, were again divided into eight categories of seven divisions and national level. 

The Daily Ittefaq, The Daily Observer and NTV (International Television Channel Ltd), have been awarded the prize this year in recognition of their contribution in raising awareness about the issue.

Here we present the award winning reports.
 

Thursday, 26 February 2015 18:00

BRAC partners with TOMS to provide safe births

February 27, 2015.

Support through sales of TOMS Bags will help provide the conditions necessary for a safe and sanitary birth for women in Bangladesh

BRAC announces a partnership with TOMS today that will help provide safe conditions for childbirth for expecting mothers in developing countries, starting in Bangladesh. 

Formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC is a global leader in providing cost-effective healthcare and other anti-poverty solutions to empower the world’s poor, while TOMS is known for its OneforOne® consumer philanthropy model. BRAC will receive funding this year for training of community health promoters in Bangladesh from sales of a new line of TOMS Bags.

“We welcome the support from TOMS in our training of healthcare workers in Bangladesh,” says Dr. Kaosar Afsana, director of BRAC’s health, nutrition and population program at BRAC headquarters in Dhaka. “This support will strengthen and sustain safe and sanitary birth for tens of thousands of women.”

Childbirth is still one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide. Most of these deaths can be prevented through the delivery of simple solutions and adequate training for health workers. In Bangladesh, BRAC has made tremendous inroads against maternal mortality by training frontline community health workers. It is running similar programs in Afghanistan, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Uganda.

“This is an important initiative by TOMS, which has shown readiness to expand its philanthropy into healthcare solutions that have been proven to work,” says Scott MacMillan, a spokesperson for BRAC USA in New York, which facilitated the partnership. “Consumers should understand that we can eliminate many of the causes and conditions of poverty by focusing on the effective delivery of training, services and basic health commodities.”

“This partnership will start in Bangladesh, but if successful, there is scope to expand it to other countries, given the tremendous need for access to healthcare in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia and South Sudan, where maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. We welcome the support of corporate partners in bringing those numbers down and creating safer conditions for mothers everywhere.”

The BRAC-TOMS partnership builds on BRAC’s outstanding track record in Bangladesh, a country credited by British medical journal The Lancet with outstanding progress in basic health indicators.

In 1990, the maternal mortality rate in Bangladesh was one of the worst in the world, with 575 deaths per 100,000 births. In the last 20 years, the country has made staggering improvements, with a 40 percent reduction in the rate in the last decade alone. Bangladesh is likely to reach the UN Millennium Development goal of 143 deaths per 100,000.

BRAC started as a small relief effort in 1972 and has grown into the world’s largest nongovernmental organization, measured by number of full-time staff and the estimated number of people it reaches. It is known in the international development community for providing opportunities for the poor on a massive scale. It reaches an estimated 135 million people in 11 countries, operating multiple programs in health, education, microfinance and other areas. BRAC takes a holistic approach to poverty with a breadth of interventions that include healthcare, women’s and girls’ empowerment, microfinance, social justice, and tens of thousands of its own schools. It also runs a full-fledged university, BRAC University, with its own graduate school of public health, in Bangladesh.

BRAC believes that if women and girls have access to the right tools, they can take control of their own lives and end poverty. Its maternal health program advances this philosophy by training self-employed community health promoters and birth attendants, providing both entrepreneurship solutions for women in poorer communities and healthcare for their neighbors.

BRAC’s model for its maternal, child and neonatal health program trains a network of 110,994 self-employed health workers worldwide – community health promoters or “shasthya shebika” in the Bengali language – to deliver health services and to refer patients with complications to nearby facilities.

In 1999, BRAC started manufacturing delivery kits to be sold by these trained health workers. Delivery kits include basic items necessary for a sanitary birth – sterile soap, gauze, a plastic sheet, and a surgical blade to cut the umbilical cord. BRAC health workers sell about 400,000 kits a year and, along with birth attendants, are trained in their proper usage.

For every purchase of one of TOMS new line of bags, BRAC will receive funding to train one health worker in the usage and distribution of these kits.