31 May 2011, Kampala. BRAC was recently introduced to an initiative called Ureport. Initiated by UNICEF, Ureport is an SMS based forum designed to provide Ugandan youth with a platform to raise issues that concern them. The system uses mobile technology to allow youth to interact with each other and participate in a national dialogue process.
BRAC Uganda has partnered with the Ureport initiative by including the members from their youth clubs. BRAC Uganda's Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents program has 690 clubs for adolescent girls and a further 100 Youth Development Centers under its Access to Health, Education and Youth Development program in Karamoja. About 26,500 adolescent girls in Uganda are now reached by these programs. Ureport is a great opportunity for BRAC to connect these girls through new mediums and a feedback based process. It fits nicely with our objective of supporting youth in becoming contributing members of their communities. Already more than 3,500 club members are being registered into the system along with nearly 9,000 young members from the microfinance and health programs. The hope is that these BRAC participants will spread the message and encourage others to join.
With Ureport, questions are sent to youth, who are called Ureporters. Ureporters send their responses back to UNICEF through free SMS. The process, however, does not stop there; some responses are shared again with all Ureporters and sometimes suggestions and guidance are sent to the participating youth. Last month's question was, ‘May 12th is Women’s Health Day! What can u do 2 reduce health problems associated with women in ur community?’ The responses received from participants have been wide ranging- starting from the need to encourage regular health check-ups to the problem of domestic violence. A message was then sent suggesting ‘women can visit their church/hospital/VCT center 4 counseling on domestic violence.’
The function of Ureport does not stop there. The Ureport initiative aims to ensure that the concerns raised by the youth are heard by both policy makers and the larger development community. The long term objective is to highlight the outcomes of these dialogues by using various channels including the media. Furthermore, Ureporters provide basic information about themselves when they register with the system thus there is huge opportunity to enhance knowledge and understanding of youth in Uganda.
To find out more about Ureport, see the below newspaper insert. And if you are a young Ugandan you can register as a Ureport for free by texting ‘join’ to 8500 and raise your voice to be heard!
18 May 2011, Dhaka. Civil society members formed a human chain in front of the National Museum, demanding increased allocation in the upcoming national budget for people living in extreme poverty. BRAC organised this human chain jointly with the Youth Forum for Poverty Alleviation and Development (YFPAD) as a part of its advocacy for ultra poverty reduction.
More than four hundred people from all walks of life formed the human chain in solidarity for increased budgetary allocation for those living in extreme poverty followed by a street drama performed by the Popular Theatre
Team of BRAC. The following demands were presented before government in the event
Speakers of the Human Chain urged the government to take necessary measures to ensure participation of the ultra poor in the pre-budget discussions by organising open meeting at the grassroots level. They also insisted the need to lay emphasis to develop strategy on ultra poverty reduction.
16 May 2011, Dhaka. A team from the School of Engineering and Computer Science of BRAC University has made history for Bangladesh by participating in a NASA Robotic Competition for the first time.
After three rounds of selection, the team, comprising four students and a professor, has been accepted to compete at the NASA’s Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition (LMC) 2011. The BRAC University team have made the nation's first lunar robot which will compete in the NASA competition.
Chairperson of BRAC Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and Vice-chancellor of BRAC University Prof. Ainun Nishat with BRAC University Students
The team members are Dr. Md. Khalilur Rhaman (Faculty Advisor), assistant professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Shiblee Imtiaz Hasan (Team Leader), Mohammad Jonayet Hossain, Mahmudul Hasan Oyon and Kazi Mohammad Razin Anik. The team is giving the final touches to BRACU Chondrobot, a lunar excavation robot made of recycled car parts, tin, alloy and rubber. The remote-controlled robot, weighing 75kg, is designed to travel on rough lunar surface, collect soil samples and carry them to lunar shuttles for examination.
The prestigious event will take place at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, the birthplace of NASA`s human space flights, on May 23-28. LMC is a university-level competition designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
NASA will directly benefit from the competition by encouraging the development of innovative lunar excavation concepts from universities that may result in clever ideas and solutions, which could be applied, to an actual lunar excavation device or payload.
Top 46 teams from all around the world are participating in the LMC, including Harvard University, Virginia Tech, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and McGill University.
Founder and Chairperson of BRAC Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG, and Vice-chancellor of BRAC University Prof. Ainun Nishat inaugurated the BRAC University “ChondroBot” on May 15 at BRAC University indoor games room. Directors of the university as well as Chairpersons of different departments were present among the guests.
It all started in October, 2010, when NASA approved BRAC University’s entry, designed by Shiblee Imtiaz Hasan, a BRAC University Computer Science & Engineering student. The team then analysed past success and failures of others and was able to design a simple, yet efficient tele-robotic system for lunar excavation.
11 May 2011, Dhaka. BRAC organised a workshop for agriculture specialists and experts to share ideas on introducing zinc fortified rice to help reduce micronutrient malnutrition on 11 may 2001 at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka.
Bangladesh suffers from micro nutrient deficiency resulting in health problems and even stunting in many cases. BRAC has gone into partnership with Harvest Plus, an independent research organisation founded by the Consultative Group in International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and co convened by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to develop and market zinc fortified rice to address the zinc deficiencies of poor households.
(from left) Dr. Md. Abdul Mannan - Director General of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Dr. Wais Kabir - Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Centre, Matia Chowdhury - Honourable Minister of Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Bangladesh, Dr. Mahabub Hossain - Executive Director of BRAC, Dr. Harrie Hendrickx - Head of Product Delivery of HarvestPlus
The zinc fortified rice is designed to provide zinc to poor people through rice, the main component of the diet of poor people. The eventual goal is to feed the ‘hidden hunger’, the problem of proper nutrition.
Matia Chowdhury MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Agriculture attended the workshop as chief guest and the event was chaired by Dr Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC. Dr Wais Kabir, Executive Chairman, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council was also present as special guest.
Matia Chowdhury said, ‘We appreciate the invention of new varieties of rice which is the country’s staple crop’. She also said the government will provide full support f the rice is proved to be healthy, cost effective and beneficial for the farmers.
Read About BRAC Agriculture & Food Security Programme
09 May 2011, Dhaka. The United Nations is launching the “Decade of Action for Road Safety” on 11 May 2011 with the slogan – “Time for Action”. If we consider the scale of the road injury epidemic facing Bangladesh, it indeed is the time for action.
In Bangladesh road accidents kill over 20,000 people annually of which 52% are pedestrians. Child fatality is over 3400 per year. The road accidents cost the country 5000 crores, roughly 1.5% of the GDP. The number of people killed on the roads is predicted to rise by at least 80% over the next 20 years.
Globally road traffic accidents kill more than 3000 people including 1000 children and young people every day. Annually, 1.3 million are killed and at least 50 million are injured. More than 85% of these casualties and 96% of child deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
Apart from devastating human consequences, road traffic injuries are holding back progress in economic growth, poverty reduction, healthcare and education. Road safety is considered as a transport issue in Bangladesh. The success of organisations responsible for is measured in KM of road constructed. It does not put people first. Road safety merits consideration as a development issue, a poverty issue, a public health issue and and Education issue:
Road accidents cost Bangladesh 1-3 percent of GDP like many of the world’s poorest countries. It acts as barrier to economic growth. The case for action to reduce road accident becomes simple through a cost benefit analysis. Every 100 taka invested in road safety can save as much as 2000 taka in lost earnings, reduced productivity and health costs. Instead of asking whether we can afford to invest in road safety, our policy makers might ask themselves whether they can afford not to. If road safety is addressed, 1 – 3 percent of GDP now lost due to road accidents will be added to it for economic development.
Poverty Issue – a killer of the poor
Every one is at risk of falling victim to road accidents. Poverty however, increases the risk – it diminishes the capacity of victims to cope with the consequences. Poor people are more likely to be vulnerable road users. Labourers walking to work by the side of roads, small farmers, women carrying goods to market and of course the children in slums figure prominently in the roll call of victims. They travel also by bicycle or by public transport. In Bangladesh public transports are major source of road accidents. Road traffic injury can dramatically reduce household income. Many are driven into poverty by the cost of prolonged medical care and rehabilitation. And many more are denied access to care because they cannot afford costs. When a breadwinner dies, families lose the income they need to maintain nutrition, purchase essential medicines or meet the cost of keeping children in school.
Public Health Issue
International community is taking commendable actions to eliminate diseases such as TB and Malaria. Road injuries are the cause of a similar share of mortality and yet receive a far lower priority in terms of resource allocation or recognition as a public health issue. Of the patients admitted in hospitals in Bangladesh from non-communicable diseases, 25% are victims of road traffic injuries.
Every year, around 3400 children aged 5-14 in Bangladesh lose their right to education for a single tragic reason that they are killed on the roads often while on journey to and from school. Many see their prospects for education diminished by injury and disability. For children who are left disabled, access to school can become a major burden. The loss of parents in road accident can leave children with long-term psychological problems. In Bangladesh, road traffic accidents are the single biggest cause of death by injury among fathers and the second biggest cause of death by injury of mothers.
Road Safety – Current Policy and Approach
Different countries have been taking actions to improve road safety. These actions have not been able to improve road safety, particularly in developing countries. A switch of policy and approach has been felt urgently necessary. A few new approach and policy directions under way are as below:
ISO plays an important role by promoting adoption of harmonised standards. The future ISO 39001 offers exciting potential to support the achievement of improved global road safety outcomes over the coming decade and beyond. The World Bank group and its partners are participating in the development of ISO 39001.
ISO 39001 concerns the management of safety standards of countries, cities, corporations and community entities. The emphasis is given to the systematic management of road safety through this. The core elements of a road safety management system are the same for any entity and relate to its goal and the organisational functions and measures delivered to achieve this goal. It is a welcoming initiative and looks forward to its speedy and effective implementation.
Safe System Approach
The safe system approach would require the road to be designed to expect and accommodate human error, recognising that prevention efforts notwithstanding, road users remain fallible and crashes will occur. The approach exploits synergies between measures that address infrastructure, vehicles and drivers when they are designed in concert. It shapes interventions to meet long term goals, rather than on incremental improvement on traditional interventions.
The basic strategy of a safe system approach is to ensure that in the event of crash, the impact energies remain below the threshold likely to produce either death or serious injury.
International Road Assessment Program is a not for profit organisation dedicated to saving lives through working in partnership with government and non-government organisations across the world. Through iRAP the roads are provided with Star Ratings through the assessment basing on the risk factors. They provide a simple and objective measure of the level of safety that is built in to the roads for car occupants, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Five star roads (green) are the safest, whereas one star roads (black) are the least safe.
Governance of Road Safety Enforcement
The enforcement of traffic laws and vehicle regulation can make an enormous difference. The positive results of strict law enforcement make it one of the most cost effective public health investments in developing countries like Bangladesh. The World Bank Global Road Safety Facility is to develop a police enforcement model designed to improve the governance of road safety enforcement in low and middle income countries.
The aim is to target Police Chiefs in low and middle income country police agencies through a global police network. The objective is to engage, strengthen and support police leadership in these countries to become sponsors of road policing and related road safety within their agencies and jurisdiction. Without this sponsorship of road policing at the highest level of police command structure, effective road safety enforcement will simply not occur.
United Nations Call for a Decade of Actions for Road Safety 2010-2020
The United Nations first ever global ministerial conference hosted in Moscow on 19-20 November 2009 was attended by a delegation headed by the Minister for Communication of Bangladesh.
The UN General Assembly resolution 64/255 of March 2010 proclaimed 2011–2020 the Decade of Action for road safety, with a global goal of stabilising and then reducing the forecasted level of global road fatalities by increasing activities conducted at national, regional and global levels. The resolution calls upon Member States to implement road safety activities, particularly described in “ FIVE PILLARS ” comprising road safety management, road infrastructure, vehicle safety, road user behaviour, road safety education and the post-crash response.
A Global Plan has been prepared intended as a guiding document for countries, and at the same time for facilitating coordinated and concerted action towards the achievement of the goal and objectives of the Decade of Action. Accordingly organisations of Bangladesh Government like Roads and Highways Department, Directorate of Health, BRAC, Grameen Phone and others are going to launch different road safety initiatives coinciding with the launching of the United Nations Decade of Actions for Road Safety 2011-2020 on 11 May 2011.
Estimates suggest that about 1 billion taka each year is spent on road infrastructure by the country’s road authorities. Dedicating 10 percent of this fund towards meeting the objectives of the decade should be a priority for Bangladesh. Besides, ensuring funding support from the development partners for the initiatives and projects is essential for the implementation of the National Plan. Global Road Safety Facility of the World Bank, Regional Development Banks, governments and private sector donors have been invited by the United Nations to enhance efforts to ensure that this need is timely and adequately met.
Unless we act now we can predict that road accidents which have already killed tens of thousands of people, will become the leading cause of premature deaths and disabilities for children and young people. Fortunately while we can predict we can also prevent.
We can save millions of lives with more commitment to road safety.
It is time for action.
By A. Najmul Hussain
Director BRAC, former Chairman
BRTA and Commissioner, Dhaka Metropolitan Police
National Road Safety Strategic Action Plan 2008-2010
WHO (2009) Global Status Report on Road Safety
WHO Road Safety Status Report South Asia 2009
08 May 2011, Dhaka. “Government is determined to resolve the problem of blindness in the in the country and achieve the target of Vision 20/20 and that is why Government/NGO partnerships are important.” Prof. Dr. A.F.M Ruhal Haque, Minister of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, said at the Vision Bangladesh Project launching ceremony at the BRAC Inn Auditorium in the city today.
Dr. Haque said, “This is a pro-poor government and invested heavilly on building up health care infrastructures such as 10,000 community clinics for better health care for the poor. NGOs can share various health care data with the government and help them on their efforts.”
Government of Bangladesh recently adopted Bangladesh National Eye Care plan' responding to the Vision 2020 "The Right to Sight" global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. The Vision Bangladesh Project, a joint initiative of BRAC, Sightsavers and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been specifically designed in accordance with the Government’s national eye care plan with an aim towards eliminating avoidable blindness across Bangladesh by the year 2020.
(From Left) Dr. Mahabub Hossain - Executive Director of BRAC, Prof. Deen Md. Noorul Huq - Line Director of National Eye Care & Director-NIO&H, Dr. Caroline Harper - OBE/Chief Executive of Sightsavers, Dr. Wahidul Islam - Country Director of Sightsavers, Dr. Ruhal Haque - Minister of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh
Dr. Ruhal Haque was the chief guest of the ceremony which was chaired by Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC. Professor Dr. Khondhaker Md. Shefyetullah, Director General-Directorate General of Health Services, Prof. Deen Md. Noorul Huq, Line Director-National Eye Care & Director-NIO&H and Dr. Caroline Harper, OBE, Chief Executive-Sightsavers also spoke on the occasion.
“Sightsavers is very excited to have government as part of this initiative because once the programme is completed, government’s involvement is the only way to make it sustainable. Our work in Sylhet is a demonstration which we hope we’ll scale up to meet that goal,” echoed Dr. Caroline Harper. The goal of working in Sylhet is to eliminate the backlog of treatable cataract blindness from Sylhet division by the year 2013. In January 2010, Vision Bangladesh began the first phase of this project with screenings and operations in Sylhet.
Blindness is one of the major health care problems in Bangladesh. About 750,000 people are blind including 40,000 children, which are avoidable through proper treatment and care.
80% of blindness in the country is from easily treatable cataracts – occurring in both young adults and children, not just the elderly. Every year, 150,000 more cases are added to the backlog of nearly one million poor people who are denied the simple procedure that could save their sights – and their future. Cataract surgery is one of the most cost effective health interventions. BRAC’s community health workers will be trained and used to identify patients with needs of such surgery. The project will be jointly funded by Sightsavers and BRAC and with the government’s help will be integrated into the wider healthcare system.
“One interesting element of the project is that we are asking the diaspora Bangladeshis to come forward and help this initiative as it costs only 20 pounds for a surgery. Bangladeshis living in UK can certainly contribute and give back to their homeland’ said Dr. Mahabub Hossain.
After the completion of the first phase, findings will be shared with the Government and other local partners with a view towards developing a scale up plan to other divisions of Bangladesh. Government also plans to open up its resources and let the programme build eye care facilities at district hospitals and upazilla health complexes.
4 May 2011, International development NGOs, BRAC and Sightsavers, are running a Channel S appeal on Friday May 6 and a major street collection at the Baishakhi Mela on Sunday May 8 to raise vital funds for cataract operations in Sylhet Division, Bangladesh.
On Friday May 6, from 8.30 pm to midnight Channel S is generously hosting a charity appeal to raise money for the NGO’s’ ‘Vision Bangladesh Appeal’ as a special telethon. The show will feature different studio guests throughout the night from the British-Bangladeshi and charity communities.
The same weekend, on Sunday May 8 from 11am, BRAC is proud to be the official charity for the Baishakhi Mela, the largest Bangladeshi festival outside of Bangladesh. BRAC UK will have a stall in Weavers Field and staff and volunteers will be collecting public donations on the day – please give generously!
One cataract operation costs just £20 – or BDT 2,400.
The weekend is part of a growing momentum to raise a total of £3 million with the Vision Bangladesh Appeal to eradicate avoidable blindness in Sylhet Division by 2014. The target is 100,000 cataract operations in three years. The project has already started and is scaling up across the whole of Sylhet Division.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson, BRAC, who was knighted in 2010 by the Queen for his services to the world’s poor, explains why public support is needed:
“If we can raise the £3 million, we can achieve an incredible goal – eradicating avoidable blindess across the whole of our beautiful Sylhet Division. We all know villages where poor people are blind – a staggering 80% of those people are blind because of untreated cataracts. We can fix that so easily – we just need the funds. Dig deep into your pockets and we will make sure your money goes directly to those poor blind people who desperately need it.”
More details of the appeal, including a film can be found on the BRAC Vision Bangladesh website.
For further press information about Vision Bangladesh, case studies or photographs please contact:
Phone: 44 7782415491
Vision Bangladesh donation details:
By phone – call 020 7922 7723.
By bank transfer to BRAC UK – Vision Bangladesh, Account No.62036991, Sort Code 40 07 13 (HSBC).
BRAC UK is a UK registered Charity (Registered Charity Number: 1115482) focused on long term sustainable poverty reduction in Asia and Africa. BRAC was founded by Fazle Hasan Abed in February 1972, soon after the liberation of Bangladesh. We are the largest southern-based NGO and employs more than 100,000 people, the majority of which are women, and reaches more than 138 million people with development interventions in Asia and Africa. Learn more at www.bracuk.net.
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. Sightsavers has worked in Bangladesh since 1973 and last year treated over 796,746 people, including performing over 64,000 cataract operations and screening 194,502 people for refractive error. Learn more at www.sightsavers.org.
03 May 2011, Dhaka. Leaders and heads of different women’s rights organisations have called for proper allocation of funds for the implementation of the women’s policy in the upcoming fiscal budget.
The leaders expressed their views in a public gathering organised by the Social Protection Committee at the Shahid Minar on Thursday. The event was chaired by the Ayesha Khanum, Chairperson, Bangladesh Women’s Association. She said, to establish a country, which is democratic, secular and free of discrimination, people from all walks of life need to take a strong stand for the National Women’s Policy 2011.
She also said, there is no mention of which clause of the Women’s Policy has hurt religious sentiments. Rather some fundamentalist organisations are creating anarchy and chaos by giving misleading explanations of religion. She asked the government to immediately implement the Women’s Policy and make a work plan for ensuring successful implementation of the policy. Former advisor to the caretaker government, Rasheda K Chowdhury said the Women’s Policy cannot be affected for one fundamentalist organisation. These organisations are misinterpreting the policy and are misleading society with wrong judgements. She also said, some irresponsible people are against this policy. No knowledgeable person can be against such development activity.
Noman Ahmed, Executive Director for IED stated that the forces defeated in the liberation war are the ones who are against this women’s policy.
Afroze Hoque Lina from Jatiya NariJyot said, the work of women is never highlighted in the national media. If the clashes are highlighted more between women’s organisations and other organisations against women’s rights, the chaos will only increase.
Among other speakers were Professor Dr A.A.M.S Arefin Siddique, Vice Chancellor, Dhaka University, Professor Momtaz Begum, Chairperson, Jatiya Mohila Shangsthya and Anna Minj, Director, Community Empowerment & Strengthening Local Institutions, BRAC and many others.
The event was moderated by Sheepa Hafiza, Director, Gender, Justice & Diversity & Advocacy, BRAC and Rekha Saha, Director, Steps Towards Development.
Apart from the aforementioned, a few thousand people from sixty seven development organisations were present in the event.
7th April 2011, Dhaka. The BRAC University James P. Grant School of Public Health founded in 2004 with ICDDR,B support, inaugurated its Centre of Excellence for Universal Health Coverage in the Sasakawa Auditorium on the 7th of April, 2011. The Centre will encourage evidence informed policy action for universal health coverage and will focus on three core activities.
First is the generation of knowledge from research of health financing systems. Second is the creation of a competent workforce that can lead new types of health financing systems based on insurance and pre-payment. Third is knowledge translation from other countries so policy makers can make informed decisions.
Dr Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, with Dr Abbas Bhuiya, Deputy Executive Director of ICDDR,B, and others in the Sasakawa Auditorium during the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the inauguration of the Center of Excellence for Universal Health Coverage at the BRAC University James P. Grant School of Public Health
Dr Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation was present at the inauguration as Guest of Honour. She spoke about universal healthcare coverage and how the present financing system leads people to poverty. Dr. Tim Evans, Dean of James P. Grant School of Public Health expressed his enthusiasm in opening the new Centre. The Centre of Excellence is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and is supported by ICDDR,B. The Centre of Excellence for Universal Health Coverage will eventually be housed on the main building of ICDDR,B Mohakhali campus.
24 April 2011, Dhaka. BRAC Advocacy Unit organised a dialogue titled ‘Allocation Mechanism of Budget in Relation to Ultra-Poverty’, jointly with the Economics Study Center of Dhaka University Dhaka on 13 April 2011 with a view to generate a thorough understanding of the dynamics and efficiency of the fiscal budget allocations on ultra-poverty issue. It is an endeavour to include the youth in the policy making process.
The dialogue began with the students from the Economics Study Center presenting on the topic. The panel discussants shared their views on the issue. They emphasized on access to agricultural loan, land and employment to the ultra poor. They also stressed the need for increasing pro-poor economic growth ensuring human development of the ultra poor, strengthening the social safety net, enhancing participatory governance, and government and development organisations collaborating (PPP) in reducing ultra poverty.
The session provided the young university students with a platform to exchange ideas with prominent economists of the country to find more effective ways of tackling extreme poverty. Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC; Dr. Binayak Sen, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies; Dr. Sajjad Zahir, Executive Director of Economic Research Group (ERG); Mr. Mamun Rashid, Banker and Economic Analyst; and Dr. Rushad Faridi of Department of Economics, University of Dhaka were present in the Dialogue as Panel Discussants. Sheepa Hafiza, Director, Gender Justice & Diversity and Advocacy and Rabeya Yasmin, Associate Director, Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction: Targeting The Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP), were also present from BRAC along with other staff. .