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25 June 2011, Dhaka. BRAC & Bangladesh Rice Foundation jointly organised a dialogue titled ‘Agriculture, Food Security and Social Security: An Analysis of Proposed National Budget 2011-12’ on June 25, 2011 at the BRAC Centre Auditorium. Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC presented his analysis on the proposed National Budget 2011-12 while M. Syeduzzaman, Former Finance Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Chaired the dialogue. The dialogue brought together the policy makers, bureaucrats, economists, academicians, lawmakers, businessmen and prominent civil society members as well as representatives from national and international NGOs who spoke about the proposed budget in relation to agriculture, food security and social security. All the speakers and the guests insisted in the proper implementation and utilisation of the proposed budget. They also shared their concern regarding transparency and accountability in implementing the proposed budget for the fiscal 2011-12. Following are the recommendations that come forward from the dialogue:

  • Ensure fair prices to maintain food security for distressed people and distribute khas lands among the poor.
  • Ensure government’s contribution to subsidise the agriculture sector considering the involvement of a very large section of the poor in it by cutting down on unnecessary expenditure.
  • Adequate allocation for human resource development and research rather than reducing subsidy in Agriculture sector.
  • Increase allocation in the social safety net programmes for food security of the ultra poor.
  • Create buffer stock of arable lands for food security.
  • Formulate a Budget Disciplinary Law to ensure accountability in the implementation of the proposed budget.

27 June 2011. Thirty-five years ago, thousands of school-aged children in Soweto, South Africa took to the streets to demand the right to a quality education and instruction in their native language. Over 100 of these children died, and more than 1,000 were injured. The Organization for African Unity (now the African Union) initiated the Day of the African Child in 1991 to commemorate this event. Since then, the continent has come together every year on June 16th to celebrate the hopes and needs of its children.

For this year’s celebration of the Day of the African Child, the focus was on the estimated 30 million street children across Africa. BRAC Uganda, in collaboration with UNICEF, took part in this event by hosting a visit from the Honorable Barbara Oundo Nekesa, State Minister for Karamojan Affairs. Many of Uganda’s estimated 10,000 street children come from the Honorable Minister’s region of Karamoja. As one of the poorest regions in the country, these children were forced to migrate due to severe drought, poverty, food insecurity, and decades of conflict that ravaged this area.

Since the cessation of conflict in Karamoja, renewed attention has been paid to developing this region. As part of this effort, BRAC Uganda launched 120 Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) clubs dedicated to the social and economic empowerment of young girls. In the morning, the clubs serve 25 pre-school children with care and stimulation through toys, games and support. In the afternoon, the clubs provide livelihood and life-skills training, as well as a customized microfinance program, for adolescent girls between the ages of 13 and 20.

The Honorable Minister had the opportunity to meet and speak to many of the beneficiaries of the ELA clubs, many of whom are former street children. The Minister was particularly touched to hear the testimonial of one young girl who, due to poverty, was separated from her parents and forced to find employment away from her hometown. Her journey first took her to Kampala by bus, and from there, she moved from city to city and even ended up in Southern Sudan.

Throughout this time, she struggled to find work opportunities, slept on the streets, and was unable to find food. When she returned to Iriiri, Karamoja last year after the long journey back home, she was finally reunited with her parents and joined BRAC Uganda’s ELA club. She explained how BRAC’s programs are providing the necessary support to keep her—and many other girls—off the streets.

After meeting with beneficiaries, the Honorable Minister inaugurated BRAC Uganda’s programs by distributing the assets of girls who were awarded for their successful completion of vocational training. Those who undertook courses in poultry rearing received a chicken coop, ten chickens, and a month’s worth of chicken feed. Those who undertook agricultural training received a variety of different seeds to plant during the rainy season. Throughout the next few months, club mentors and trainers will work closely with these girls to ensure that they are able to fully utilize their new assets in order to earn an income for themselves and their families.

At the end of her visit to BRAC’s programs, the Honorable Minister gave a strong message of support to BRAC Uganda and its partners in Karamoja. She reaffirmed the Government's commitment to programs like BRAC’s that provide key opportunities and support to children so that they will no longer be forced to migrate from their homes.

This article was written with contributions from Dr. Nicola Banks. Dr Banks works with BRAC's Research and Evaluation Unit in Uganda. She previously worked for BRAC's Research and Evaluation Division in Bangladesh, before completing her PhD in Development Policy and Management with The Brooks World Poverty Institute, The University of Manchester. She remains an Honorary Research Fellow at the Brooks World Poverty Institute.

21 June 2011. The Society for Peace, National Reconciliation and Reunification (SPNRR) has honored a Microfinance Company, BRAC-Liberia for what it termed "empowering" over seven thousand Liberians to acquire training in different skills.

The Chairman of the organization, J. Mayfield Copson said the company‘s commitment to improving the living conditions of Liberians shall remain commendable as Liberians have suffered for too long and now need a change in their livelihood.

During the honoring ceremony, which took place over the weekend at BRAC-Liberia’s head office in Congo Town, Mr. Copson noted that the gesture of BRAC-Liberia is one of the best things for human kind, saying that the company’s contributions would go a long way in the fight against poverty.

He used the occasion to call on all Liberians to make use of the available training opportunities in Liberia to enhance the rebuilding process of the country after 14 years of destruction.

Responding, the Executive Director of BRAC-Liberia, Mohammed Abdus Salam, disclosed that 32,873 Liberians have benefited from the company’s microfinance program so far.

According to Mr. Salam, the company was established in Liberia for the purpose of empowering people and communities in tackling the issues of poverty, illiteracy and disease among others.

He said the company has financially empowered many parents who now are capable of sending their children to school thereby helping to make them useful and assets to society.

Mr. Salam indicated that the company is also working in collaboration with the Liberian government in the promotion of peace and security as a way of buttressing government’s efforts aimed at implementing the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).

Meanwhile, the BRAC-Liberia Executive Director has further disclosed that the company has extended its microfinance program to seven counties including, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Montserrado, Grand cape Mount and Margibi.

Mr. Salam said additional counties would benefit from the program shortly. He felt short in naming the additional counties to benefit the Microfinance program.

According to the BRAC- Liberia Executive Director, since the establishment of the organization in Liberia, the company’s Microfinance program has changed the lives of about 69 percent of female Liberians.

Mr. Abdus Salam added that Liberian needs capacity building in order to empower the young people and improve their living condition as well.

During a visit to the Gorakpah town market in Sinkor, a beneficiary of the BRAC- Liberia microfinance program who sells fish, Annie Walker, age 49 said prior to the intervention of the organization, she sold fish in the market for several years without making gains or profits.

But, Madam Walker said when she received the first loan of 15,000 United States dollars from the microfinance company in 2009, things became to change and her life started to improve.

This article was originally written by Roland Davis and published in the Liberian newspaper, In Profile Daily.

18 June 2011, Dhaka. Christy Turlington Burns, American fashion icon, activist and women’s health advocate, spent the afternoon in the Kunipara slum in Bara Magh Bazar, Dhaka, visiting various maternal health initiatives run by BRAC.

Turlington Burns and her team, who reached Dhaka earlier this morning, braved the torrential downpour to make their way to BRAC’s delivery centre in Kunipara. While there, they met with BRAC’s community health volunteer, health worker and urban birth attendants (UBAs) who deliver babies at the centre, supervised by trained Manoshi mid wives. They also talked to several pregnant women attending an Expected Date of Delivery mothers’ meeting to become oriented with the centre where they will be giving birth. They also spoke to Aklima Begum, who gave birth to a healthy baby girl at the centre last night with the help of UBA Joba Begum.

Model turned activist Christy Turlington Burns explores BRAC’s urban health care services
BRAC Community health worker Firoza Begum (2nd from left) demonstrates to Christy Turlington Burns (4th from left) how she uses mobile health technology to collect information about her clients, pregnant women such as Zulekha (3rd from left)

The team followed local BRAC health worker Feroza Begum on one of her routine household visits to the home of Zulekha Begum, who is eight month’s pregnant. They observed as Feroza conducted general tests during an ante natal check up and collected information and photos of Zulekha’s condition using mobile technology. The team members were particularly impressed with the level of access and acceptability BRAC’s health staff and volunteers had with the slum community.

"Like so many others, I was thrilled to read the new statistics about Bangladesh’s progress reducing maternal mortality but this visit has been especially heartening for me as I've had a chance to see a real difference even since my last visit in 2009. More women are seeking out the sort of trained assistance in pregnancy and delivery that BRAC has made available and that's making a real impact," stated Turlington Burns. commend BRAC on the role they have been playing in these achievements".

This is Turlington Burns’s second visit to Bangladesh. In 2009, she travelled here to film a segment of her directorial debut, No Woman, No Cry, a documentary chronicling the global plight of pregnant women lacking access to timely and critical care. She is returning for the Bangladesh premiere of the film, to be held on Monday at ICDDR,B in Dhaka. Accompanying her on the trip are photojournalist Josh Estey, founder of Heather B. Armstrong and Erin Thornton, the Executive Director of Every Mother Counts, an advocacy and mobilization campaign started by Turlington Burns to increase education and support for maternal and child health.

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

  1. Instigate special programmes focusing the ultra poor for poverty alleviation
  2. Increase budgetary allocation in the social safety net programme
  3. Initiate special programme to reduce extreme poverty under the social safety net programme.
  4. Ensure transparency in the selection process of the ultra poor and implementation of the ultra poverty reduction programme.

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: 

Development 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.

Education Issue
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 39001
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


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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.

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