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Speakers urged the government to set up an independent land commission to ensure improved services for citizens, especially for women and minorities, at a policy dialogue organised by BRAC. The policy dialogue titled, ‘Institutional and social barriers for women and marginalised communities to access land and property rights’ took place on 15 June 2015, at BRAC Centre. The event was moderated by BRAC’s executive director, Dr Muhammad Musa.

“An umbrella land services authority needs to be established in each upazila with a view to offer one stop service,” said additional secretary and former director general of land records, Md Abdul Mannan, in his presentation. He made this recommendation to overcome the obstacles in realising property rights of women and marginalised people.

Special guest of the event, honourable state minister, Ministry of Land, Mr Saifuzzaman Chowdhury urged all stakeholders “to come up with a proposal to address resolving this land rights issue’.

BRAC organised this policy dialogue as part of its property rights initiative (PRI) project. PRI aims to develop linkages between laws and rights by helping poor communities in identifying their entitlement to property rights and supporting them in accessing their claims.

Present at the dialogue as a panellist, Barrister Sara Hossain advised, “We should exercise the intervening opportunities present in our existing laws instead of solely aiming for formation of a new law. For example, there is a scope of gifting property to women in Muslim law. This can be used to deal with property rights issues.” This dialogue was a step to create a coordination amongst the organisations working from grassroots to policy level on land rights issues.

Leading researchers, land rights and women’s rights activists, academicians, and representatives of NGOs and CSOs including international development partners attended the event. They reiterated the necessity to simplify and shorten the otherwise complex land documents like khatian, dalil and porcha for easier understanding.

The director of BRAC’s human rights and legal aid programme, Dr Faustina Pereira concluded the dialogue with a commitment to come up with an activity mapping. Organisations working in the land rights issue will identify their working areas in the map to ensure a more coordinated approach to work in future.

Researchers, policymakers and implementers  collectively stressed on the importance of agriculture in improving nutrition at the “Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Bangladesh” research dissemination seminar held at BRAC Centre INN today. This knowledge sharing event was organised by BRAC as the Bangladesh partner of  the Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA), which is an international research consortium funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Chief guest of the workshop Dr Shelina Afroza, secretary of Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries said ‘This seminar has lessened the gap between researchers and policy makers’ and encouraged the researchers to reach out to policy makers and relevant ministries with their findings and data.

In his keynote presentation, Dr Mahabub Hossain mentioned “GDP growth has increased from 3.5% per year during 1971-89 to 5% in the 1990s and further to 6.2% during last decade”. He also emphasised that diversified agricultural production along with some  socio-economic factors including women’s empowerment have a key role in improving nutrition in households. Knowledge generated through research should be translated into actions through proper policy implementation.  This event was one step towards that.

Women empowerment plays a key role in improving dietary quality, mentioned IFPRI’s chief of party, Dr Akhter Ahmed in his presentation. He also identified the skewed rate of rice consumption in our country   ‘for the poor population, 78% of calorie comes from rice, 57% of protein comes from rice’. IFPRI research found out that, Behavioural Change Communication is critical in enhancing nutrition in Bangladesh.
Representatives from Ministry of Health, FAO, GAIN, IFPRI, World Fish, Concern Worlwide, FHI 360, HKI, Dhaka University, University of Liberal Arts, Harvest Plus, Aftab Bahumukhi Farm Ltd, SUN among others were present at the event.

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.

27 April 2015, New York. BRAC, an organization with deep roots in nearby Bangladesh, is sending an emergency response team to Nepal to provide immediate assistance and long-term relief following the earthquake that to date has killed more than 3,000 people.  

BRAC and its North American affiliate, BRAC USA, are calling on supporters to assist its emergency response to the Nepal earthquake. From its headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, BRAC is sending a team to Nepal to provide blankets, medical treatment, essential medicine and dry food to earthquake victims.  BRAC is uniquely positioned to provide emergency support due to its proximity and experience.  

“We have years of experience in emergency disaster response,” said Shahinul Hoque Ripon, a doctor from BRAC who will lead the team. “We successfully carried out operations in Haiti, after the devastating earthquake in 2010, Sri Lanka, and in Indonesia after the deadly tsunami in 2004. Our core team will provide essential medical support to the victims in collaboration with the Nepalese government.”  

Nepal is struggling to cope with the aftermath of one of the strongest earthquakes in recent history, which has killed more than 3,000 people to date.

“We are grateful to the people of Bangladesh for their genuine response to earthquake victims of Nepal," said the Nepalese ambassador to Bangladesh, Mr Hari Kumar Shrestha. “We are particularly thankful to BRAC for their decision to send an emergency medical team with essential medicines, blankets and food.”  

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Friday, 24 April 2015 18:00

Medhabikash Education Summit 2015 held

25 April 2015, Dhaka. BRAC’s Medhabikash scholarship programme is playing an important role in helping underprivileged students in reaching their potential, said experts at the Medhabikash Summit held in Savar today. Medhabikash helps meritorious students from financially disadvantaged families to pursue post-secondary level studies.

Mr Md Nazrul Islam Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Education, attended the programme as the chief guest, while Dr Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, vice chairperson, BRAC, gave the welcome speech. The summit was attended by 300 male and female Medhabikash scholarships awardees.

Highlighting the importance of higher education, Ahmed Mushtaq R Chowdhury said, ‘ BRAC will support higher education to help Bangladesh to realise its full potential’.

Education secretary Mr Md Nazrul Islam Khan said, ‘BRAC’s Medhabikash Udyog is not merely a scholarship programme, it is a unique initiative to build and improve skills. Aided by this programme, many underprivileged but meritorious students are able to achieve higher education.  We hope that BRAC will continue such efforts’.

The daylong event included three panel discussions where corporate heads, media personalities and journalists participated. Speakers at the first panel discussions included medhabikash scholarship awardees. The second panel highlighted alternative career choices, which was attended by famous singer and actor Tahsan Khan, Film and ad maker Amitabh Reza, activist and environmental lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan, USA woman of courage award winner journalist Nadia Sharmeen. Corporate heads like Rabi’s CSO and head of m-commerce Rubaba Dowla, group director of Rahimaafrooz Niaz Rahim, senior vice president of BRAC Bank Zara Jabeen Mahbub were amongst the third panel discussion.

Medhabikash Udyog programme has awarded 3542 scholarships from 2005 to 2014.

24 April 2015 

On the two-year anniversary of Rana Plaza, the fund for victims of the 2013 Bangladesh factory collapse is still $3 million short of what is needed for fair compensation

BRAC USA, the North American affiliate of the Bangladesh-based anti-poverty organization BRAC, is calling on donors to close the $3 million dollar funding gap to reach the $30 million needed to compensate victims of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse.

BRAC USA has welcomed several new contributions this week, including a pledge by The Children’s Place to match donations up to $2 million to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund. But more is needed, the organization says.

When the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed on April 24, 2013, more than 1,100 garment workers died and more than 2,500 were injured, many severely. In 2014, on the one-year anniversary of the event, BRAC USA, a 501(c)3 created the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund to provide aid to survivors and support for workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry. Donations earmarked for the Rana Plaza Donors Trust can be directed through BRAC USA.

“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,” Sir FazleHasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC, said at the time of the fund’s creation. “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.”

The Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund accepts donations to support Bangladesh garment workers from corporations, foundations and the general public.

The Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund supports survivors and victims’ families with direct payments given through the Rana Plaza Donors Trust, as well as through support provided via BRAC, whose programs for Rana Plaza victims include prosthetics for amputees, counseling, psycho-social support, livelihood training, long-term medical support, and seed capital for survivors to start new businesses.

To date, BRAC USA’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund has raised $5.43 million, with donors including Walmart, Asda, Walmart Foundation, The Children’s Place, The Gap Foundation, and VF Foundation. From these contributions, BRAC USA has granted $2,205,000 to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust, with another $275,000 grant forthcoming.

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust was set up in January 2014 under the Rana Plaza Arrangement, a multi-stakeholder coalition of government, employers, workers, retailers and civil society, with the International Labor Organization serving as neutral chair.

Meanwhile, BRAC University’s Institute of Educational Development is pursuing systemic long-term solutions to the problems of workplace safety in the Bangladesh garment industry. It is conducting a mapping study to cover the vast network of garment factories and subcontractors in need of building upgrades to meet safety standards.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 18:00

WASH & CLEAN in the labour ward

A knowledge dissemination workshop on ‘WASH & CLEAN in the labour ward: A situation analysis in India and Bangladesh”was held on 25 March 2015 at BRAC Centre Auditorium.  The Bangladesh part of this study is a collaboration between BRAC and the University of Aberdeen, UK with funding support from the Soapbox Collaborative, UK. In the workshop, findings of the study on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and infection prevention practices in maternity unit of hospital was shared withstakeholders working in the field of maternal health.

Dr. Md Shah Nawaz, Additional Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh was present as the chief guest.Professor DrMdShamiul Islam, the Line Director of Hospital Services Management, Directorate General of Health Service was the special guest. Among the key speakers were Dr. Wendy J Graham, Professor of Obstetric Epidemiology, University of Aberdeen, UK, MS Suzanne Cross, Senior Programme Officer, The Soapbox Collaborative, UK andDrTanveenIshaque, Senior Research Associate, Research and Evaluation Division, BRAC. The session was chaired by Dr. Ahmed MushtaqueRaza Chowdhury, Vice Chairperson, BRAC. Academicians, researchers, policy makers, clinicians, professionals, microbiologists and representatives from national and international organisations were present in the session.

Bangladesh findings were shared by DrTanveenIshaque and MrsAtiya Rahman.One of the key findings of the study is that visual cleanliness does not always indicate microbiological safety. The cleaner environment might have fewer germs, but not necessary they are completely safe. Inadequacies in training on infection, prevention and control for healthcare providers and an absence of training for cleaners were identified. The majority of healthcare providers expressed their need to get formal infection prevention training for their cleaners and other health care providers. Lack of organizational policies and protocols for infection prevention and control, absence of formal infection control committee and relevant checklists for monitoring and quality control contributed to suboptimal standards of infection, prevention and control practices in the participating facilities. Staff motivation specifically cleaners of the health facilities were shaped by high level of dissatisfaction due to heavy workload and poor salary which ultimately affecting the overall infection prevention practices of the facilities.  Most women who received care from the participating facilities did not have any idea about the fatal consequences or risks that they or their baby might face as a result of exposure to an unsafe hospital environment.

In his speech, Dr. Md Shah Nawaz talked about some of the important characteristics of Bangladesh health sector.  Per capita health expenditure is only $27 dollar/ year. The rate of institutional delivery is 29%. He talked about the wide variation in the service provision between urban and rural setting. Even within the urban setting, wide variation exists. For example, cost of cesareans delivery varies widelyranging from BDT 4000 taka to overBDT 100,000. He mentioned that our health sector has good data storage and management information system. There is more than 180,000 service centres available all over the country. He gratefully recognisedthe valuable contribution of some of the distinguished guest present in the session and also requested others to come forward.

In his speech, DrMdShamiul Islam mentioned about the remarkable growth in health sector. However, there is lots of scope of improvement in service quality. There is clear relationship between infection and maternal mortality. So infection prevention and control is very important. Visual cleanliness is not sufficient. He mentioned that there is lots of rules, regulation and protocols ara available, but they are not properly implemented. He sought everyone’s support in the health sector. He thanked the team of this valuable and timely research and also welcomed more researchers to conduct evidence based researches.

In the concluding remark Dr. Ahmed MushtaqueRaza Chowdhury said that we all have a role to play in ensuring WASH and Clean practice. It is not just about having a protocol, rather there needs to be a detailed and clear strategy. Finally he thanked the researcher team, government officials and audience to be part of this knowledge dissemination strategy.

The dissemination session was followed by a consultative policy discussion session. National & international experts on health sectorwere given some of the priority areas of maternal health. They identified key issues under each area, suggested next step, proposed timeline and identify priority stakeholders for the programme implementation

24 March 2015, Dhaka. Three national media houses and 23 journalists from national and local newspapers have won the BRAC Media Award 2015 for their special reports on tuberculosis issues. The winners will receive the award from the honourable minister of the ministry of health and family welfare at a grand ceremony on march 24, World TB Day. This award ceremony is one of the major events organised on the occasion of the day in the country. 

A three-member jury gave its judgment after a scrutiny of the reports submitted. Senior journalist Md Farid Hossain, former bureau chief of AP, chaired the jury with Shahnaz Munni, news editor, ATN Bangla, and Dr Asif Muztaba Mahmud as the other members. Dr Mahmud acted as the technical expert for the jury.

The awards were given under three main categories: print, electronic and online media reporting. The print media reports which are most in number, were again divided into eight categories of seven divisions and national level. 

The Daily Ittefaq, The Daily Observer and NTV (International Television Channel Ltd), have been awarded the prize this year in recognition of their contribution in raising awareness about the issue.

Here we present the award winning reports.

Thursday, 26 February 2015 18:00

BRAC partners with TOMS to provide safe births

February 27, 2015.

Support through sales of TOMS Bags will help provide the conditions necessary for a safe and sanitary birth for women in Bangladesh

BRAC announces a partnership with TOMS today that will help provide safe conditions for childbirth for expecting mothers in developing countries, starting in Bangladesh. 

Formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC is a global leader in providing cost-effective healthcare and other anti-poverty solutions to empower the world’s poor, while TOMS is known for its OneforOne® consumer philanthropy model. BRAC will receive funding this year for training of community health promoters in Bangladesh from sales of a new line of TOMS Bags.

“We welcome the support from TOMS in our training of healthcare workers in Bangladesh,” says Dr. Kaosar Afsana, director of BRAC’s health, nutrition and population program at BRAC headquarters in Dhaka. “This support will strengthen and sustain safe and sanitary birth for tens of thousands of women.”

Childbirth is still one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide. Most of these deaths can be prevented through the delivery of simple solutions and adequate training for health workers. In Bangladesh, BRAC has made tremendous inroads against maternal mortality by training frontline community health workers. It is running similar programs in Afghanistan, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Uganda.

“This is an important initiative by TOMS, which has shown readiness to expand its philanthropy into healthcare solutions that have been proven to work,” says Scott MacMillan, a spokesperson for BRAC USA in New York, which facilitated the partnership. “Consumers should understand that we can eliminate many of the causes and conditions of poverty by focusing on the effective delivery of training, services and basic health commodities.”

“This partnership will start in Bangladesh, but if successful, there is scope to expand it to other countries, given the tremendous need for access to healthcare in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia and South Sudan, where maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. We welcome the support of corporate partners in bringing those numbers down and creating safer conditions for mothers everywhere.”

The BRAC-TOMS partnership builds on BRAC’s outstanding track record in Bangladesh, a country credited by British medical journal The Lancet with outstanding progress in basic health indicators.

In 1990, the maternal mortality rate in Bangladesh was one of the worst in the world, with 575 deaths per 100,000 births. In the last 20 years, the country has made staggering improvements, with a 40 percent reduction in the rate in the last decade alone. Bangladesh is likely to reach the UN Millennium Development goal of 143 deaths per 100,000.

BRAC started as a small relief effort in 1972 and has grown into the world’s largest nongovernmental organization, measured by number of full-time staff and the estimated number of people it reaches. It is known in the international development community for providing opportunities for the poor on a massive scale. It reaches an estimated 135 million people in 11 countries, operating multiple programs in health, education, microfinance and other areas. BRAC takes a holistic approach to poverty with a breadth of interventions that include healthcare, women’s and girls’ empowerment, microfinance, social justice, and tens of thousands of its own schools. It also runs a full-fledged university, BRAC University, with its own graduate school of public health, in Bangladesh.

BRAC believes that if women and girls have access to the right tools, they can take control of their own lives and end poverty. Its maternal health program advances this philosophy by training self-employed community health promoters and birth attendants, providing both entrepreneurship solutions for women in poorer communities and healthcare for their neighbors.

BRAC’s model for its maternal, child and neonatal health program trains a network of 110,994 self-employed health workers worldwide – community health promoters or “shasthya shebika” in the Bengali language – to deliver health services and to refer patients with complications to nearby facilities.

In 1999, BRAC started manufacturing delivery kits to be sold by these trained health workers. Delivery kits include basic items necessary for a sanitary birth – sterile soap, gauze, a plastic sheet, and a surgical blade to cut the umbilical cord. BRAC health workers sell about 400,000 kits a year and, along with birth attendants, are trained in their proper usage.

For every purchase of one of TOMS new line of bags, BRAC will receive funding to train one health worker in the usage and distribution of these kits.

NEEP-Workshop 16th-Feb

On 16 February, 2015, BRAC held a launching workshop for its collaborative evaluation study with the American Institute for Research (AIR). The Evaluation of the BRAC Nutrition and Early Childhood Programme is being carried out under a grant from the Nutrition Embedding Evaluation Programme (NEEP), a four-year programme agreement between the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the US based donor organisation PATH. Malnutrition and under-nutrition among young children is a pressing health issue for Bangladesh. A lot of this is tied to the issue of early childhood development. Given the scale and scope of BRAC’s nutrition and early childhood development related interventions, the findings of this evaluation can have tremendous implications for the future of similar initiatives in Bangladesh and the rest of the developing world.

The workshop featured presentations on BRAC’s health programme, its nutrition and early childhood development interventions as well as a session on the proposed evaluation. It also brought together key experts and stakeholders from the field of health, nutrition and early childhood development, encouraging open dialogue and an exchange of ideas on the growing issue of child under-nutrition and malnutrition in Bangladesh.

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