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Thursday, 09 July 2009 17:00

An exciting vision for Bangladesh


09 July 2010, Dhaka. International development NGOs BRAC and Sightsavers have today launched an appeal to raise £3m to transform the lives of 100,000 poor Bangladeshi’s living in the Sylhet District by providing them with sight-restoring operations and eliminating treatable blindness.

In Bangladesh over one million people are blind, yet 80% of this blindness is due to cataract, a clouding of the eye’s lens, which can be cured with a straightforward and cost-effective operation.  Sadly in Bangladesh, many people do not realise their blindness could be cured, or they don’t have the money or time to visit a hospital.  Without surgery people can find themselves falling further into poverty as they become increasingly dependent on their family and stop going to work or school.  Devastatingly 50% of children who go blind will die within two years.

In the north east region of Bangladesh, Sylhet, which has a population of 13 million, almost 60,000 people are blind, with cataract remaining the largest cause.  With a huge waiting list for operations and around 9,000 new cases of cataract blindness occurring every year there are vast numbers of people who are needlessly blind.  The Vision Bangladesh Appeal will target the poorest and most marginalised communities in the region, screening one million people between now and 2014 and providing operations, or glasses, for those who need them.

From teams of specially trained community health workers offering hygiene and general health information to cataract surgeons and specialised doctors, the appeal will also ensure there are more professionals in the region to identify and treat eye problems.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder & Chairperson, BRAC comments:  “The Vision Bangladesh Appeal is an important opportunity for the British-Bangladeshcommunity in the UK to make a measured and lasting difference.  The gift of sight is something so precious and with their help we can have a huge impact on lives of those living in poverty.”

A start up phase has already begun in the region and over 1,000 surgeries have been conducted and a further 970 people have been prescribed glasses to improve their vision.

Dr Wahidul Islam, Bangladesh Country Director for Sightsavers comments: “We are so excited to be working together with BRAC to tackle the huge task of eliminating avoidable blindness in Sylhet.  Combining our expertise and resources is essential if we are to train more surgeons, build and equip new eye care centres and find those desperately in need of an sight restoring operations.  The result will be a lasting impact for individuals, families and communities.”

The appeal will transform the lives of people like fifty year old Padma Kormi who was blind in both eyes with cataracts.  Padma from the village of Mourapur in Sylhet had lost her job on the tea estates and became extremely poor and vulnerable.  She was one of the first people to be treated by Vision Bangladesh. Now having had surgery Padma can see again and is very happy to be able to return to her job and be independent again.

More details of the Appeal, including a film can be found at [www.sightsavers.org/visionbangladesh]

For further press information about Vision Bangladesh, case studies or photographs please contact Rachel Heald on 01444 446754, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Penelope Mawson 44 (0) 20 7922 7722, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  For media enquiries out of hours, please call 07775 928253.

For British-Bangladesh media, please contact Tanvir Ahmed, 44 (0) 7782 415491

Notes to Editors:

About BRAC:
1. BRAC was founded by Fazle Hasan Abed in February 1972, soon after the liberation of Bangladesh and has grown to become one of the largest NGOs in the world employing more than 120,000 people, the majority of which are women, and reaching more than 110 million people in Asia and Africa.
2. BRAC achieves large scale, rapid change by working with individuals, families, communities, and institutions, to overcome poverty. Our approach is comprehensive – with financial services, capacity building and livelihood development as well as health, education and social justice – enabling people to realise their potential.
3. BRAC’s health programme in Bangladesh covers a population of 100 million people and operates through a network of 85,000 trained women community health volunteers who every month visit 11 million households providing essential health care.
4. BRAC UK was founded in 2006 to help mobilise support for BRAC’s international work (registered charity number 1115482).
5. Currently BRAC has country programmes in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda as providing technical assistance in Haiti, India, Indonesia, Sudan, and Yemen,



About Sightsavers:
1. Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired.  www.sightsavers.org
2. There are 45 million blind people in the world; 75% of all blindness can be prevented or cured.
3. Every sixty seconds another child loses their sight; only 2% of children who are disabled in the developing world attend school
4. 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of Sightsavers, originally called the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, which was founded in 1950 by the late Sir John Wilson.
5. In the six decades since its foundation, Sightsavers has:

  • Treated over 206.8 million people for blinding and potentially blinding conditions
  • Carried out over 7.1 million operations to restore sight
  • Trained almost 0.5 million primary eye care workers
  • Carried out rehabilitation training to 91,000 people

6. Sightsavers has worked in Bangladesh since 1973 and last year treated over 873,057 people, including performing over 72,000 cataract operations and providing 167,000 people with spectacles
 

06 July 2009, Dhaka. Mr. Bert Koenders, the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, and Ms. Tineke Huizinga, the Dutch State Minister for Transport, Public Works and Water Management, visited BRAC programmes in Khulna and Bagerhat on Sunday, 5 July, 2009. They were accompanied by the Dutch Ambassador, Ms. Bea ten Tusscher, Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC and the BRAC Directors Dr. Safiqul Islam and Dr. Babar Kabir. 

 

dutch_minister_01.jpg

 

The delegation first visited a BRAC Adolescent Development Centre in Moubhog. They spoke to the adolescent girls group and inquired about their reproductive health awareness.  Then the delegation visited a BRAC Primary school in upper Moubhog and another one in Narkeli Chandpur. The Ministers spoke to the students about their studies. They also spoke to a differently abled student and inquired about the facilities being provided to her by the BRAC school. The Ministers were treated with a song and dance routine by the school students. Later on the Ministers also visited a Government Primary school.

The delegation then met with a BRAC Village WASH Committee in Kajdia. The field visit was concluded with a short meeting with local government officials and BRAC staff at the Rupsha BRAC Office.

Reflecting on his first field visit in Bangladesh, Mr. Koenders said that it had been a very exciting and useful experience. He expressed his appreciation for the important and successful efforts that were made by BRAC to provide basic social services such as education and sanitation, to isolated rural communities. He emphasised that these services are a basic human right and essential for human development. He also added that he was very pleased to note in the field the constructive collaboration and cooperation between Government and BRAC.

He recognised that the challenges to achieve universal access to social services are enormous because the demand for them is still increasing due to population growth. At the same time, he explained, it is equally important to ensure that these services are of good quality. He emphasised that the role of local communities and local governments is very important. He added that the meetings with local committees, health staff and teachers have shown that real progress is being made.

 

 

25 June 2009, Dhaka. BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Fazle Hasan Abed, was awarded the honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom for his role as "a tireless defender of the needy".  Mr. Abed was admitted the degree on Wednesday, 24 June, along with five other leading figures from the world of development, the arts and science, by Oxford University chancellor, the Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, at Encaenia, the annual honorary degree ceremony.
 

Honorands at the 2009 Encaenia ceremony. From left to right : Fazle Hasan Abed, Dr Santiago Calatrava-Valls , Professor Erwin L Hahn , Dame Mitsuko Uchida ,Professor Barry Marshall, Mr Philip Pullman

Honorands at the 2009 Encaenia ceremony. From left to right : Fazle Hasan Abed, Dr Santiago Calatrava-Valls , Professor Erwin L Hahn , Dame Mitsuko Uchida ,Professor Barry Marshall, Mr Philip Pullman [Photo: University of Oxford]

"He regards poverty not as a simple phenomenon but as one with complex causes, which there is no possibility of eliminating without analysis of its nature and origin.  He wants to help the needy to help themselves; he nourishes their mind as well as their bodies, appreciating that education is the engine of economic development.  Above all, he has insisted on the rights of women, arguing that unless they get a fair share of respect and resources, men themselves will not succeed in overcoming poverty... I present a tireless defender of the needy, a citizen of Bangladesh and of the whole world, Fazle Hasan Abed, to be admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters," reads Abed's citation.

Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world with nine centuries of continuous existence, is consistently ranked among the world's top ten universities. Previous recipients of Oxford's honorary degrees include Nobel Laureates Rabindranath Tagore and Amartya Sen, former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, American author Mark Twain and former American president Jimmy Carter.

Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help rehabilitate returning refuges from India to newly independent Bangladesh. Later, BRAC changed its focus to long-term community development. Today, BRAC is the largest non-governmental organisation in the world and its programmes in education, health, economic and social development and human rights and legal services cover a population in excess of 100 million. In addition to numerous national and international awards, Abed was previously awarded degrees of Doctor of Laws by Queen's University in Canada, Doctor in Education by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and Doctor of Humane Letters by Yale University in the United States in recognition of his work with BRAC.

24 June 2009, Dhaka. A two-day symposium on educational progress in Thailand will be held in city on 27-28 June. A three-member team headed by Dr. Kasama Varavarn, Secretary General of the Thai Ministry of Education, will share its experience with officials, academics and   policy-makers in Bangladesh. Dr. Q.K. Ahmed, co-chair of the Education Policy Committee, will inaugurate the symposium on Saturday, 27 June at the Lake Shore Hotel in Gulshan. 

BRAC University Institute of Educational Development, jointly with Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and Campaign for Popular Education, (CAMPE) will host the event. Members of the Education Policy Committee, Parliamentary Standing Committee members for the two education ministries, education officials, academics and development partner representatives have been invited. This will be the first event of the "Learning from Neighbours" symposia series planned by BRAC University and the partner institutions to look at experiences of Asian countries.

Thailand and other Asian countries have made spectacular progress in education and economic development in recent decades.  The newly elected government of Bangladesh has given high priority to educational development in its longer term Vision 2021 and its election  pledges. An Education Policy Committee has been appointed to formulate education policy priorities.  The symposia series, starting with Thailand, has been planned as a contribution to the national initiative.

tea-estate-award-2008.jpg

03 June 2009, Dhaka. BRAC’s Kaiyachreea Dalu Tea Estate, Bhujpur, Fatikchari, Chittagong won the First Prize for the Prime Minister’s National Award for Afforestation-2008 for the Agar (Aquilaria) Plantation Project. Mr. Saieed Bakth Mozumder, Director of BRAC Tea Estates Division, received the award from Honorable Prime Minister on 31st May 2009, at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre, Dhaka.

27 May 2009, Dhaka. The recent cyclone Aila caused massive destruction and devastation in the southern and south-western part of Bangladesh. BRAC, as an immediate response to this calamity has approved Taka 1 (one) crore from its own fund for primary relief activities. BRAC has already started to distribute pure drinking water, water purifying tablets, rice flakes and molasses in the affected region. For coordination and the smooth operation of the relief activities one of the Directors from BRAC Head Office is already working in the cyclone affected areas as well as all BRAC staffs of the affected Upazillas are engaged in these relief activities. Necessary steps to mobilise more funds for the victims are being taken by BRAC. 

destroyed house by cyclone aila destroyed house by cyclone aila
flooded rice fields  flooded rice fields 
flooded home and trees  families gathered for shelter in relief center after losing home 
all drinking water supply system been flooded with salt water  ponds, fields all gone under water 
flood affected people gathered for the relief  houses are been torn apart by the cyclone aila 
even big trees been knock down by cyclone aila  flooded area 
low area flooded with salt water  flooded home and trees 
flooded home and trees  flooded home and fields 
flooded home and fields

27 May 2009, Dhaka. The recent cyclone Aila caused massive destruction and devastation in the southern and south-western part of Bangladesh. BRAC, as an immediate response to this calamity has approved Taka 1 (one) crore from its own fund for primary relief activities. BRAC has already started to distribute pure drinking water, water purifying tablets, rice flakes and molasses in the affected region. For coordination and the smooth operation of the relief activities one of the Directors from BRAC Head Office is already working in the cyclone affected areas as well as all BRAC staffs of the affected Upazillas are engaged in these relief activities. Necessary steps to mobilise more funds for the victims are being taken by BRAC. 

destroyed house by cyclone aila destroyed house by cyclone aila
flooded rice fields  flooded rice fields 
flooded home and trees  families gathered for shelter in relief center after losing home 
all drinking water supply system been flooded with salt water  ponds, fields all gone under water 
flood affected people gathered for the relief  houses are been torn apart by the cyclone aila 
even big trees been knock down by cyclone aila  flooded area 
low area flooded with salt water  flooded home and trees 
flooded home and trees  flooded home and fields 
flooded home and fields

 

24 May 2009, Dhaka. BRAC University and the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) co-sponsored a seminar on the H1N1 virus (popularly known as the swine flu) on May 21st. Scholars and health professionals gathered at Swine Flu: Global and Local Perspective to emphasise the importance of preventative measures and education to curb the potential for H1N1 outbreaks. The participants agreed that preventative hygienic actions are crucial, particularly in the developing world.

More than 10,000 cases of swine flu have officially been reported to the WHO in 41 countries.

Dr. Stephen P Luby, head of Programme for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Sciences Division (PIDVS), ICDDR,B, underscored the need for individuals be mindful of simple hygienic practices. "In order to prevent any potential outbreak in Bangladesh, people must improve their respiratory hygiene – by sneezing into their elbows instead of into their hands or into the air, practice social distancing, wash hands often throughout the day with soap and water, and refrain from smoking as it impairs respiratory systems."

And one of BRAC’s programmes is the Water, Sanitation, and Health programme (WASH), which was started in 2006 with the aim of providing hygiene education for 37.5 million people. Promoting the same practices that prevent the spread of swine flu, WASH uses the Shebikas to reach community people, and BRAC concurrently works to improve water supplies and sanitation services in their homes and their schools.



BRAC, the international NGO based in Bangladesh, announces contribution of USD 1 million from its fund to Nepal earthquake victims. In addition to this, BRAC Bangladesh, BRAC Bank and BRAC University staff will contribute their one-day basic salary, which is USD 300,000 in total. BRAC Social Enterprises will also contribute another USD 200,000, totalling BRAC’s contribution to Nepal to USD 1.5 million. Moreover, BRAC already took initiative to mobilise USD 15 million from international donors. BRAC International and BRAC’s affiliates in UK and USA will raise these additional funds.

BRAC will start its support activities in one of the most affected areas of Nepal, Nuwakot. Explaining the initiative, senior director of strategy, communications and empowerment of BRAC and BRAC International, Asif Saleh said, “From the very beginning, BRAC has been dedicated to improving the lives of people. We believe it is BRAC’s mandate to come in and aid our neighbouring country, as it faces a major humanitarian crisis. BRAC has years of experience in emergency disaster response. We successfully carried out operations in Haiti, after the devastating earthquake in 2010, Sri Lanka, and in Indonesia after the deadly tsunami in 2004”.

The two yearlong support programme in Nuwakot includes household support for 2,000 household, rehabilitation of 200 maimed earthquake victims (both short-term and long-term), psychosocial rehabilitation of 30,000 earthquake victims, and livelihood support for 5,000 households.    

BRAC International already contributed USD 50,000 from its fund to the earthquake-stricken nation. An emergency medical team from BRAC has been sent to Nepal to provide medical treatment, essential medicine and dry food to earthquake victims. This team is working in Dolekha, Bhaktapur, Sindupalchawk, Lalitpur, and Kathmandu in collaboration with the Nepalese government.
 

16 May 2009, Dhaka. BRAC received an award at the International Conference of Acid Survivors held at the Engineers Institution auditorium in Dhaka on May 13, for its work with victims of acid throwing in Bangladesh. Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Bangladesh organised the international conference bringing together 600 people -- who were acid survivors, or their relatives or people working for organisations that help acid attack survivors.

Victims of acid attacks are generally women, and they suffer severe burns and life-long pain and disfigurement.

BRAC takes a holistic approach in helping victims of acid attacks, providing them access to medical and psychological treatment as well as access to legal services for them to bring the assailants to justice.
 

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