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$5 million raised for newly launched Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund for rehabilitation of garment workers, victim support, and awareness of workplace safety

Donate directly to the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund

NEW YORK, NY – As the one-year anniversary of the Bangladesh Rana Plaza building collapse approaches, BRAC USA, the North American affiliate of BRAC, announced today a multi-year fundraising initiative to ensure that progress continues on humanitarian aid and support for workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry. An antipoverty organization founded in 1972, BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) is a global leader in providing opportunity for the world’s poor.  

BRAC USA’s new Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund will be directed to three specific program areas: support for the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund; continued support for BRAC’s work to provide counseling and rehabilitation to garment workers; and a reserve that can be used to support a “social safety net” for workers impacted by other tragedies such as the Tazreen factory fire in 2012.

“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,” says Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC. “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.”

In the wake of the collapse of Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013, which killed more than 1,100 people, BRAC has provided relief and medical assistance, psychosocial counseling for victims, and livelihood support and training with support from BRAC USA, the International Labor Organization and others. Working with other stakeholders, BRAC has also advocated for a long-term solution to Bangladesh worker safety issues.

The Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund continues that work with its first major grant this week: a $2.2 million donation to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, which supports victims of the Rana Plaza disaster and their families, who are receiving payments coordinated under a single approach through the Rana Plaza Arrangement. With the International Labor Organization serving as neutral chair, the Rana Plaza Arrangement is overseen by a Coordination Committee established in November 2013 by a multi-stakeholder coalition of government, employers, workers, retailers and civil society. BRAC USA’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund seeks to address victim needs and garment worker safety concerns in part by contributing a portion of every gift to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.

BRAC USA’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund has already raised more than $5 million, including support from Walmart, Asda, Walmart Foundation, The Children’s Place and The Gap Foundation.

“These global industry leaders and foundations contributed to BRAC USA’s fund based on BRAC’s deep history and community roots in Bangladesh, and on BRAC USA's strong commitment to a long-term solution and its high standards in grantmaking, monitoring and reporting,” said Susan Davis, President and CEO of BRAC USA.

“The Rana Plaza tragedy was a wake-up call for the world that shocked our collective conscience,” Davis adds. “Even eleven months after Rana Plaza, more support needs to be provided to victims and their families. Delays have taken place for a variety of reasons, but rather than looking back, we’re moving forward on common ground, and with a clear message: A better path is possible, and we can help create it.”

Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, the ILO Deputy Director-General for Partnerships and Field Operations, said, “The Coordination Committee has called for donations from any party, and they are very much needed to ensure fair treatment for the Rana Plaza victims who are struggling to rebuild their lives and those of their dependents and families. This coordinated Arrangement is a key step on the road to establishing decent work and safe workplaces in the Bangladesh garment industry. We welcome BRAC USA’s efforts in support of the Arrangement and hope that its pro-active approach inspires others to donate funds too.”

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund is open to donors from around the world on a voluntary basis, including those that were not in Rana Plaza, as an expression of solidarity and compassion.

BRAC USA will also use contributions to its Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund to make grants in support of BRAC’s continuing work to build sustainable futures beyond monetary compensation for affected garment workers. This support includes counseling and training in new livelihoods for those who survived Rana Plaza, Tazreen and similar disasters but cannot, or do not wish to, return to the ready-made garment industry.

BRAC is the world’s largest nonprofit antipoverty organization and often among the top ranked in terms of effectiveness. A sister organization, BRAC International, now works in 10 other countries in Asia and Africa, supported by two independent affiliates headquartered in New York and London.

Since the Rana Plaza disaster, it has been working with other stakeholders in the public, private and civil society sectors for long-term solutions to Bangladesh worker safety issues. In April, BRAC University, a full-fledged institution of higher learning set up by BRAC in 2001, will host a conference on workers' rights and safety issues in Dhaka.

BRAC USA welcomes additional contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. All gifts to the new Humanitarian Fund will be administered by BRAC USA, an independent 501(c) 3 charitable organization registered in New York State, with fiduciary responsibility resting with its board of directors.

 

16 March 2014, Dhaka. Based on the findings of the impact assessment of the credit programme for tenant farmers, a national level workshop was held on Saturday, 15 March 2014 at the BRAC centre auditorium.

Since its establishment in December 2009, the tenant farmer development project – funded by Bangladesh Bank – provides credit and other support for tenant farmers.

The event was attended by the governor of Bangladesh Bank, Dr Atiur Rahman, as the chief guest and chaired by Dr Mahabub Hossain, advisor to BRAC’s executive director.

During the workshop, professor Abul Bayes of Jahangirnagar University presented a paper on tenant farmers’ access to credit and extension services and BRAC’s borgachashi unnayan prakalpa. Dr Mohammad Abdul Malek of BRAC’s research and evaluation division (RED) presented a paper on the impact assessment of credit programmes for tenant farmers and the baseline study findings.  Mr Abu Ahasan Mishu from RED also presented a paper on tenancy, agricultural livelihoods and microcredit.

Professor MA Sattar Mandal of Bangladesh’s Agricultural University pointed out that the dependence on non-institutional sources of funds (ie, friends, relatives)  have decreased, while borrowing loans from NGOs has increased.

Stating that this is the “only project in the world customised for sharecroppers,” Dr Atiur Rahman mentioned, “There has been a huge shift in tenancy. Connectivity has increased.”

He also said that, “[About BDT 70 million] has been disbursed [in loans] and 700,000 tenant croppers have benefited from this project. [Additionally], 55 per cent of clients are now women.”



23 February 2014, Dhaka. 
BRAC Road Safety Programme has started a Basic Driving Training course for 20 constables and sub-inspectors of Bangladesh Police from 23 February, 2014 at BRAC Driving School, Uttara. The aim of the 33 days training programme is to provide basic driving training for promoting safe driving practises among the novice drivers. The BRAC Driving School, established in May 2012 conducts a variety of driving courses such as driver instructors, professional women drivers, Surakkha-road safety & defensive driving training for in-service bus and truck drivers etc. through the use of digitised bar coded training manual, driving simulator, visual impairment system and P-drive system etc. 

 

international women’s leadership award

25 February 2014, Dhaka. Tamara Hasan Abed, senior director of BRAC Enterprises, was honoured with the Outstanding Women Leadership Award by the World Women Leadership Congress on 14 February in Mumbai, India.

“I am truly privileged to receive this award and to be considered among successful women leaders. I would like to accept this on behalf of the many women who have influenced my life, particularly those in my country of Bangladesh. Women are on a remarkable journey towards equality, marked with struggles and victories. This award is symbolic of yet another victory and I hope it will inspire more girls to lead,” said Ms Abed, who is head of the leading retail chain Aarong.

Women leaders from across the world attended the two-day conference, including the former minister of women’s affairs for Afghanistan, Dr  Sima Samar, the president and CEO of UN Women Canada, Almas Jiwani and the managing director of HBO Asia, Monica Tata. Ms Abed, who is the daughter of BRAC’s founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, also spoke on a panel discussion about the opportunities and challenges facing women leaders.

 

19 February 2014, Dhaka. Cultivation of rice, jute, sunflower, tomato should be increased to face the climate change affects in Bangladesh. Lack of sustainable process to reduce salinity in the water is one of the major challenges here, agro-experts suggested in the workshop held on Tuesday 18 February at BRAC Centre Inn. They also mentioned, that attention is needed in increasing the production as well as creating a market for the harvested crops.

In the keynote presentation, the programme Head of BRAC’s agriculture and food security programme (AFSP) Dr. Md. Sirajul Islam stressed on expanding the climate change adaptive technology amongst the farmers of our country.

Md Abu Hanif Miah, Director General, Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Ministry of Agriculture, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and Kamal Uddin, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) were present as special guests at the event. Mr. Anwar Faruque, Director General, Seed Wing and Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh was the chief guest of the event.  BRAC’s senior director Babar Kabir chaired the event and programme head of Communications and Advocacy for Social Change, Snigdha Ali gave the welcome speech.

 

10 February 2014, Dhaka. Grameenphone, in collaboration with BRAC, is going to provide 2.1 million free internet hours for school children. Inspired by Language Movement Day 21st February this programme will be starting this month.

This was announced today (February 10) in a programme arranged at Ali Hossain Girls High School, situated in West Dhanmondi. Under the initiative of “Internet for All” Grameenphone will provide 2.1 million free Internet hours to 250 schools around the country. Students of these schools will be able to use free internet in the Gonokendras, the multi-purpose community learning centres managed by BRAC at school premises. Grameenphone and BRAC recently signed an agreement under which BRAC will help Grameenphone to implement the programme on field level.

During the programme Sigve Brekke, chairman of Grameenphone Board and head of Telenor Asia discussed about the benefit of using internet with students. He emphasised on the awareness regarding internet and importance of using internet safely especially by the children. Later the students participated in a quiz programme. Asif Saleh, BRAC’s senior director of strategy, communication and capacity was present at the event. He thanked Grameenphone for this initiative and said that these initiatives would open a gateway of knowledge for the students to explore newer opportunities.    

Grameenphone’s Head of Corporate Communications, Tahmeed Azizul Huq, Engineer Sajedul Alam, acting Head Master of Ali Hossain Girls School were present on the occasion.
Grameenphone has an ambition to make Internet accessible for all Bangladeshi through its Internet for All initiatives.   Objective of this campaign is to create equal opportunity to access educational content, news, information and knowledge for all.

BRAC, the largest development organization in the world, currently has around two and a half thousand Gonokendras functioning in Bangladesh. These multi-purpose learning centers provide an intergenerational meeting space and offer a number of services for adults, children and students. They also preserve local historical items, operate mobile libraries for women and the elderly and run a Children’s Corner. 
 

BRAC’s vice-chair and interim executive director (ED), Dr Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, attended the global launch of the Lancet series on Bangladesh in New York on 15 January 2014.  The event was held by the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the UN, UNICEF and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Last year, the Lancet medical journal published a special research series highlighting accomplishments in Bangladesh’s health sector. Despite widespread poverty, exceptional improvements in maternal child health, immunisation coverage, and tuberculosis control were part of this remarkable success story. BRAC’s own health programme and extensive community-based health network were identified as crucial contributing factors to these achievements.

Major highlights of the event were a presentation on the significant findings from the series, followed by a panel discussion. Those attending the event included the special guest, Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr AKA Momen, Dr Abbas Bhuiya, co-author of the Lancet series, and 70 other guests including UN diplomats, academics, development partners, media representatives were present at the event.

Find the details on Lancet series: http://www.thelancet.com/series/bangladesh
 

 

16 January 2014, Dhaka. BRAC distributed 20,000 blankets in the coldest districts of northern and southern Bangladesh.

The first cold wave of this year hit the people of northern and southern part of the country the hardest, causing many to suffer.  BRAC promptly took the initiative to distribute blankets in 81 upazila under 13 districts.  During 12-16 January 2014, 1,000 blankets in Panchagarth; 2,000 in Nilphamari; 1,500 in Thakurgaon; 2,000 in Dinajpur; 1,500 in Joypurhut; 1,000 in Pabna; 1,500 in gaibandha; 1,000 in Lalmonirhat; 2,000 in Kurigram; 2,000 in Rangpur 2,000 in Jessore; 1,500 in Satkhira and 1,000 in Jamalpur have been distributed.

The blankets were distributed by regional managers, regional accounts managers of BRAC, the  district BRAC representatives from thirteen districts with support from local government officials.  The initiative has been supported by BRAC’s core fund.
 




In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, BRAC Liberia has signed a global fund sub recipient consultancy contract with the Ministry.  The objective of this contract is to provide a framework which would allow the sub-recipient provide community based Tuberculosis (TB) Directly Observed Therapy (DOTs) services under the round ten Global Fund’s TB Grant. This will strengthen the TB control and management of people with TB/HIV co-infection in Liberia. The signing took place on December, 23 2013




 

 

Chowdhury

Dr.  Mushtaque Chowdhury, professor of clinical population and family health  at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and founding  dean of BRAC University’s James P. Grant School of Public Health in  Bangladesh, has authored research in a Lancet Bangladesh  series of papers. “Overall, there has been a shift from the priority of  managing infectious diseases to where we are now – a focus on public  health programs to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and the  burgeoning of non-communicable diseases, especially in the country's  urban areas.” Launch of the Lancet series on Bangladesh will be held at the United Nations on January 15.

                   

 

In  the article, “The Bangladesh Paradox: Exceptional Health Achievement  Despite Economic Poverty,” and the first in the series of six papers,  Dr. Chowdhury writes that Bangladesh has been commended as an  exceptional health performer. Especially noteworthy is the country’s  widespread deployment of community health workers, mostly female, to  bring high-priority services to every household in the country including  programs in family planning, immunization, oral rehydration therapy,  maternal and child health, tuberculosis, vitamin A supplementation, and  other activities. “However, while the country has achieved substantial  health advances, evidence shows that these achievements are  counterbalanced by steep and sustained reductions in birth rate and  mortality, the persistence of child and maternal malnutrition and the  low use of maternity-related services and some basic health services,”  he says.

 

And,  Bangladesh is likely to continue to face “the complex pushes and pulls”  of many social determinants, and future health challenges are already  becoming apparent, according to Dr. Chowdhury. While its health system  was shaped to address poverty-linked infectious, nutritional, and  maternity-related diseases, adjustments to the health system are needed  to tackle chronic non-communicable diseases. Dr. Chowdhury addresses the  need to overhaul Bangladesh's health system as a key first step in  reducing inequality in the provision of health services andisconvinced  that universal health coverage is the way forward for his country. The  “call to action” in this Lancet Series proposes that universal health  coverage (UHC) should be the ultimate goal for Bangladesh. Support from  the Mailman School of Public Health helped launch BRAC University’s  James P. Grant School of Public Health in Bangladesh in 2005. The School  was one of only four schools of public health in South Asia.

 

To read more, click here.

 

To listen to Dr. Chowdhury on the Lancet series, click here.

 

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