BRAC in Uganda, the country’s largest non-governmental development organisation, has been honoured as the Best Visionary Microfinance Bank 2017. The 5th Visionaries of Uganda Awards ceremony was held at the Kampala Serena Hotel on December 7, 2017.
The award was given to BRAC by the People of the Republic of Uganda for their outstanding contribution towards Uganda’s middle income status aspiration 2020 and Vision 2040, in a ceremony presided over by His Excellency, Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuka, the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda.
The Visionary of Uganda Awards was launched in 2013 by His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda, to award institutions and organisations that contribute towards the social economic transformation of Uganda.
The awards were sponsored by various institutions including the National Planning Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Mediciens Frontieres and Compuscan CRB Limited. The awards drew over 40 participants including both private and government organisations covering sectors such as health, education, agriculture, microfinance and banking.
BRAC in Uganda provides access to finance and livelihood development services to small entrepreneurs through small enterprise loans. These loans enable them to expand their businesses. These awards are confirmation that alongside growth, BRAC is putting emphasis on providing microfinance solutions to shape and uplift Uganda’s economy.
BRAC and the German Development Bank (KfW) on behalf of the German Government signed two agreements to set up a fund on climate change adaptation and climate-induced migration.
The project called ‘Climate bridge fund’ has been drawn through consultation between the two organisations with the objective of supporting the communities of Bangladesh vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The agreements were signed on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at the BRAC Centre in the capital. Asif Saleh, senior director, strategy, communication and empowerment, BRAC and BRAC International, Carla Berke, head of division, urbanisation and mobility, South Asia, KfW, Germany, and Regina Maria Schneider, director, KfW regional office, Bangladesh and Nepal, signed the agreement on behalf of the respective parties.
This initiative will provide funding to NGOs, social and private sector institutions to implement projects for strengthening resilience of the vulnerable people in urban areas who are either displaced or at risk of displacement due to climate change impacts. The fund, subject to government approval, will encourage sustainable operations and their scaling up, which traditional development projects usually cannot provide. More details on it will be published during the first quarter of 2018.
Crop diversification have positive impact on nutritional intake
Crop diversification helps increase the intake of nutritious food by giving households more options in food items to choose from. A study, conducted from 2010-11 to 2014-15, reveals that underweight population among the participant community reduced by 4.5 per cent over this period.
The findings further show that over the study period normal weight population among the participating households increased by 2.3 per cent. Also underweight male population reduced by 4.4 per cent, while female population of the same category reduced by 5.3 per cent.
‘Econometric analysis revealed that crop diversity level has direct influence on dietary diversity and, thereby, on the nutritional status of the individual,’ the study concludes.
International research body Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) and development organisation BRAC conducted the study titled ‘Crop diversity, dietary diversity and nutritional outcome in rural Bangladesh: Evidence from panel households’ with 500 participating households in 12 villages of 11 districts across the country.
LANSA-BRAC consultant Dr Uttam Kumar Deb and BRAC’s Research and Evaluation Division (RED) director Professor Abdul Bayes led the study.
The findings of the study were presented at a seminar styled ‘Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Bangladesh’ today on Tuesday (12 December 2017) at the BRAC Centre in the Dhaka city. The event was supported by UK AID.
Agriculture secretary Md Kaykobad Hossain was present at the seminar as the chief guest, while Professor Abdul Bayes moderated. BRAC Agriculture and Food Security Programme’s head Dr Md Sirajul Islam, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) research analyst Tauseef Salahuddin, and RED senior research fellow Barnali Chakraborty presented three other papers at the event. Agriculture joint secretary Balai Krishna Hazra and WorldFish country director Dr Malcolm Dickson, among others, also spoke at the seminar.
Md Kaykobad Hossain said, ‘It is difficult for Bangladesh to mitigate the challenges including that of increasing the nutritional intake for the 160 million people with limited resources. As a part of its efforts, the government is giving emphasis on distribution of nutritious food items besides rice under its VGD (Vulnerable group development) programme.’
‘Rice cannot fulfil our daily need of food intake. So the government is now motivating the farmers to produce new crop varieties apart from rice,’ he further said.
‘Besides food crop production, we have to increase our focus on building quality storage system,’ added the agriculture secretary.
Professor Abdul Bayes said, ‘It is true that Bangladesh has made better progress in increasing people’s nutritional intake than some of the disadvantaged African nations, but to make further progress our farmers need to reduce their dependence on rice cultivation.’
Professor Bayes in his presentation pointed out that during the study period, 99 per cent of the farmland was under rice cultivation throughout the monsoon, which changed outside the rainy season to bring more than 45 per cent of farmland under non-rice crops.
The community in the study area, however, generally manifested a positive trend towards cultivating varieties of crops. Households with larger farms and comparatively better institutional education showed more interest about crop diversification.
The speakers also warned that an upward trend of gaining weight in a section of the community is also evident from the study. During the study period, overweight population increased in the participant households by 1.9 per cent with overweight male population increased from 3.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent and female population increased from 9.3 per cent to 11.3 per cent. During the same period, obese population increased from 0.9 per cent to 1.2 per cent with obese male population increased by 0.5 per cent and female population increased from 1.3 per cent to 2 per cent.
Summaries from three more research work were also presented at the seminar. Dr Md Sirajul Islam presented the paper titled ‘A study on milk value chain for the poor in Bangladesh’. Barnali Chakraborty’s paper was titled ‘A capability approach to child nutrition: Parents’ stories in context of haor’, while Tauseef Salahuddin presented a paper styled ‘Dietary patterns in rural Bangladesh: What influence of agriculture?’
BRAC's attention has been drawn to the news published by some media houses, alleging that the Government of Pakistan has ordered closure of BRAC's development operations in that country. While this news is not based on any fact, the statement below will explain the real situation on this issue.
BRAC has been implementing development programmes in Pakistan since 2007 under the entity 'BRAC Pakistan' which is locally registered. Recently, BRAC undertook an initiative to register an international development entity called 'BRAC International' to operate in that country. Accordingly, an application was filed with the Pakistani ministry concerned. The ministry, however, rejected the application, while advising to resubmit papers within 90 days for reappraisal.
In this context, the development programmes being run by BRAC Pakistan have no connection with the application for registration of BRAC International or the process involving it.
We, therefore, clearly state that the news published alleging the suspension or closure of BRAC programmes in Pakistan is entirely baseless.
BRAC in Pakistan organised their the first Annual Performance Awards 2016 to recognise top performing credit officers in the microfinance programme from all the six regions. The awards ceremonies were held in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Sahiwal, Rawalpindi and Hyderabad, ending in July 2017. The top 36 performers were awarded with cash prizes based on outreach, number of clients, the quality and amount of portfolio achieved, and adherence to BRAC’s core values of integrity, innovation, effectiveness and inclusiveness.
The microfinance programme provides access to the financial support needed for people living in poverty, particularly women, to improve their livelihoods. BRAC uses an inclusive and client-focused intervention to extend financial and non-financial services across a wide number of underdeveloped areas in Pakistan. The loans are delivered at clients’ doorsteps through female agents.
BRAC is currently providing financial assistance to 55,000 borrowers through microloans, small enterprise loan and agriculture loan products. The microfinance programme is operational in 13 districts through 66 branch offices and six regional offices in Sind and Punjab province of Pakistan.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, one of the world’s leading non-governmental organisations, has received the prestigious Laudato Si award during a ceremony at the Vatican City. The award recognises BRAC for its innovative approach to creating opportunities for millions of people living in poverty, achieving significant impact in Bangladesh and ten other countries.
BRAC was founded in Bangladesh in 1972 by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, and today is a global leader in developing cost-effective, evidence-based poverty innovations in extremely poor, conflict-prone and post-disaster settings. These include programmes in education, healthcare, microfinance, girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, social enterprises, a bank, a university, and the world’s largest mobile money platform. The organisation is known for its business approach to helping people in poverty, with 16 socially-minded businesses that enable the most marginalised people to access financial services and livelihoods. In addition, BRAC’s celebrated graduation programme helps the poor ‘graduate’ out of destitution, resulting in an income boost of up to 37 percent. Research has shown that it has the potential to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 1 by uplifting the poorest people and eradicating the most severe forms of poverty.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote “Laudato Si’ meaning, “On care for our common home,” in which he calls for an international dialogue about how to approach and act upon an ecological crisis. In essence he explains that caring for our common home, and bettering our communities, means also addressing how international business practices have contributed to climate change, which effects the most marginalised people. The Laudato Si’ Challenge 2017 is developing and accelerating transformative, scalable, profitable businesses that have solutions to the most intractable problem of our time: climate change and human migration.
As part of the inaugural challenge, The Laudato Si’ awards recognise the innovators whose contributions are uniting humanity and transforming the way we approach impact and enterprise. The Laudato Si’ awards are a set of three prizes honouring those who are committed to answering Pope Francis’s clarion call. Other award winners include Huda Abuarquob in the individual category and Sarara Camp in the enterprise category.
Sir Fazle expressed his gratitude for the award. “Forty-five years ago, I set out to change the conditions of my native Bangladesh permanently, by giving poor people the power to control their own lives and destinies. I founded BRAC based on the belief that poor people, if given the means to organise themselves, can change the course of history.
“We have achieved much, but there is more to be done. For the first time in history, the eradication of extreme poverty from the face of the planet is within our sight. Like His Holiness Pope Francis, I believe that proper care for the planet means proper care for the people who live on it, including the most vulnerable among us. My vision is of a world where even the poorest have the opportunity to lead lives of purpose and dignity.”
BRAC in Sierra Leone was awarded the ‘Best NGO for Women’s Empowerment' for 2017 by the Council of Chief Executives, a leading association of business leaders in Sierra Leone that is committed to sustainable economic growth and human development.
The award comes in recognition of BRAC’s role in empowering women through its programmes, management systems and innovations.
The award was accepted by the country representative, Rakibul Bari Khan, on behalf of BRAC in Sierra Leone. He described the award as "a great honor and recognition of our determination to empower the lives of women in Sierra Leone. Ultimately, we want to help the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the goal of attaining gender equality." He further noted, "In turn, the empowerment of women will help remove inequality and contribute to the eradication of poverty in all its forms."
80% of BRAC staff in Sierra Leone are women and over half of the programmes are run by women. The Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme is completely run by women while all community health workers under the health programme are women; 95% of microfinance staff and clients are also women.
BRAC opened its offices in Sierra Leone in 2008 and currently reaches 2.3 million people through programmes in health, adolescents’ empowerment, agriculture and microfinance. It follows an integrated approach to development, implementing programmes through 30 branches in 11 districts across the country.
Lack of healthy diet puts more people at risk of death and diseases
Lack of healthy diet puts more people at risk of death and diseases in developing countries than things like air pollution, smoking and drug abuse. It has been reported that as a result of poor nutrition conditions, there was an estimated 11 percent drop in GDP of countries across Africa and Asia.
This, along with other insights, come from the new report on 'Healthy Diets for All: A Key to Meeting the SDGs' that was launched at this year's Global Panel meeting at a hotel on today in the capital. Zahid Malek, MP, Honorable State Minister from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, was present at the launching as the chief guest.
Panel members at the meeting included the Director of BRAC, Health, Nutrition and Population Programme, Dr Kaosar Afsana, Global Panel member Emmy Simmons, Global Panel Technical Advisor Professor Patrick Webb, Department for International Development (DFID) country director Jane Edmondson were also spoke at the meeting, BRAC, and Global Panel in collaboration with International Food Policy Research Institute and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) hosted this year's meeting in Dhaka on Monday, 20 November, 2017. The central agenda of the meeting was to engage policymakers at all levels and help them recognise the role of healthy diets in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The report presented six evidence-based recommendations, aimed at policymakers in low and middle-income counties, showing how 'diet quality' can be the key to help them unlock and accelerate progress on meeting their Sustainable Development Goals.
These six areas of focus include – paying attention to diet quality in developing SDG plans; adopting food systems approach to meet the SDGs; focusing on improved diet for infants, young children and women; addressing barriers and shocks impeding access to healthy diets; widening national policy approach to ensure well-functioning food systems; boosting efforts to collect and report data on diet quality.
Zahid Malek MP stated, "this is a country of 160-170 million people. Despite few natural calamities and man-made disasters, Bangladesh has maintained its sustained economic growth. We are turning from lower middle income to middle income by 2021 or earlier. Even then, 45 million people live in absolute poverty, 40 million are suffering food insecurity, 7.3 million children are stunted, only three-fourths of under two children accessed minimal acceptable diet and 70% of our diets are cereal based."
He emphasized on five points to solve these problems; urge all relevant ministries to act in their own jurisdiction for improved nutrition and healthy diets for all with a multi-sectoral approach, propose a minimal healthy diet affordable to the people, rigorous advocacy and mass campaign for healthy diets, continuous and serious dialogue with commercial markets to make them pro-people, nutrition-sensitive and supportive for healthy population and all stakeholders – government, NGOs, UN and private sectors must work together for community mobilization.
The consensus at the meeting was that one critically important policy area that connects many of the SDGs, is the provision healthy diets for all. Invisible in terms of SDG language and not mentioned among the many targets, healthy diets are a foundation underpinning successful progress toward targets in health, agriculture, inequality, poverty and sustainable consumption.
Community radios to commence unique two month long campaign.
As part of the efforts to raise awareness on the issue of child marriage, community radios will start communicating a unique campaign from November until December. A total of 17 community radios nationwide will be responsible for disseminating critical information on 11 topics surrounding child marriage in various native languages.
A thought sharing session was held today, titled “Increasing Awareness to Prevent Child Marriages,” at the National Press Club where the campaign announcement was made. The participants at the event included Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Md. Mosharraf Hossain, Programme Coordinator of Gender Justice and Diversity at BRAC, Nishath Sultana, and Director of Community Empowerment Programme, Gender Justice and Diversity, and Integrated Development Programme at BRAC, Anna Minj.
It is revealed through the event that the topics covered by the community radio shows will include: child marriage, father’s role in child marriage, role of teachers and community leaders, community engagement, role of local government, role of social media, role of NGOs, involvement of boys and sexual harassment among others.
The development of the magazine shows, necessary skills building and promotion related activities will be carried out in collaboration among BRAC’s Gender Justice and Diversity and Community Empowerment Programme along with Bangladesh Community Radio Association.
Dr Chowdhury honoured for work in public health globally.
Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, Vice Chairperson of BRAC, was nominated by the American non-profit Ronald McDonald House Charities for its ‘Medical Award of Excellence 2017’ along with a grant of USD 100,000. The award was given in recognition of Dr Chowdhury’s outstanding contributions in the field of primary health care and community-based education across developing countries. The ceremony was held on 11th November, 2017, in Illinois, U.S.
Among his vast body of achievements, Dr Chowdury is known for leading BRAC’s Oral Therapy Extension Programme that successfully stemmed deaths from childhood diarrhea by training mothers on oral rehydration solution (ORS) preparation. In addition to his role at BRAC, Dr Chowdhury is also the Professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and has implemented projects in countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, China and Ethiopia.
Dr Chowdhury has worked as Senior Adviser and acting Managing Director for Health at the Rockefeller Foundation, where he played a critical role in setting up several institutions in the South-East and South Asia regions. These include the establishment of the Department of Public Health and Informatics at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, forming the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance (MBDS) network, and setting up of a center on non-state sector studies in Vietnam.
Past recipients of the Award included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Health Minister of Rwanda Dr Agnes Binagwaho and Queen Noor of Jordan among others.