07 April 2009, Dhaka. The third Technical Advisory Committee meeting of Manoshi was held in BRAC Center, Dhaka, Bangladesh during April 5-6, 2009. Manoshi, a five year community-based maternal, neonatal and child health interventions funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations is being implemented by BRAC to reach 8 million populations in urban slums of Bangladesh to reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality. In order to maintain the highest level of quality, the Technical Advisory Committee comprising renowned national and international public health professionals, scientists, academics and health care professionals meet each year to provide guidance to the project for further improvement. In addition to field visits in urban slums of Dhaka City, in the meeting, the progress of the project was reviewed. The participants suggested models for packaging services in urban slums and discussed how to make this project sustainable. During discussion, many research issues were identified that captured successes, challenges and gaps of Manoshi project. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Fazle Hasan Abed, the Chairperson and Dr. Mahabub Hossain, the Executive Director of BRAC.
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.
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.
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.
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 [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.
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.
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.
18 July 2009, Dhaka. BRAC hosted an event on July 15th in BRAC Centre, Dhaka to mark the launching of two books - "Freedom from Want", and "BRAC: Unnoyoner Ekti Upakkhan" -- both written on the journey of BRAC towards development.
At book launch ceremony From left to right: Mr. Anisul Haque, Prof. Syed monzoorul Islam,Prof. Rehman Sobhan, Dr. A M. M. Shawket Ali, Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Prof. Mustafizur Rahman,Dr. Mashiur Rahman
Chaired by former Adviser to the caretaker government MM Shawkat Ali, the event was also addressed by Chief Guest Economist Professor Rehman Sobhan, Prime Minister's Adviser Mashiur Rahman, Prothom Alo Deputy Editor Anisul Haque, Centre for Policy Dialogue Executive Director Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Dhaka University Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam and Dr. Mahabub Hossain Executive Director of BRAC.
Professor Sobhan stated, "BRAC has a major contribution to the country's poverty alleviation and it engages the poor with income generation activities. In addition, it has established itself as a self-financed organisation over the last three decades." He added, "In its long journey, the organisation has tried to discover the inherent causes of poverty, which is very important in poverty alleviation effort. And then BRAC has initiated different programmes that have engaged a huge number of rural poor to fight poverty."
Dr. Mashiur Rahman said, "Women who borrowed from BRAC and set up their own shops have already overcome the social barriers. They will not return to the claustrophobic social space." He stated "It is unfair to treat BRAC only as a microcredit organisation and not to differentiate it from other traditional microcredit institutions engaged only or mainly in small loan operations. BRAC has a more comprehensive approach to development, and credit is one of the many elements in it."
The University Press Ltd published the two books titled "BRAC: Unnayaner Ekti Upakhyan" by Faruq Chowdhury, Subol Kumar Bonik and Sajedur Rahman and "Freedom from Want" by Ian Smillie.
27 August 2009, Dhaka. BRAC for the first time has entered the fast growing Islamic Finance Industry. BRAC is providing Technical Assistance (TA) to Bank Al Usra in Khartoum, Sudan. This is being carried out under the one year agreement of USD 334,880 signed between the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Jeddah, Central Bank of Sudan (CBOS) and BRAC Bangladesh.
With BRAC’s assistance, Bank Al Usra’s performance has been praised in the banking sector of Sudan for its outreach in both rural and urban areas, and meeting the needs of the communities. BRAC has successfully completed the first three months of its Technical Assistance to Bank Al Usra. A three member BRAC Microfinance specialist team led by Murtaza Reza Chowdhury arrived in Khartoum on April to assist in building the capacity of Bank Al Usra, the first Islamic Microfinance Bank in Sudan. Based on the team’s performance during the first three months, IDB has already paid the second installment to BRAC.
Bank Al Usra has eleven branch offices (six of which had been opened with the assistance of BRAC TA team) in four states. Eight more branches are to be opened by the end of the Agreement in March 2010.
21 July 2009, Dhaka. BRAC signed an MOU with ClickDiagnostics Inc., a U.S. based social enterprise, and Alliance Forum Foundation, a U.S. based non-profit public corporation, on 20th July, for mobile-based automation of data management for BRAC Health’s Manoshi programme. Mr. Faruque Ahmed, Director BRAC Health, Mr. Rubayat Khan, Chief of Operations (Bangladesh), ClickDiagnostics, and Ms. Sumala Chowdhury, Country Representative, Alliance Forum Foundation, signed the agreement in a ceremony Under this six-month-long pilot, selected health workers held at BRAC Centre, Mohakhali.
Mr. Rubayat Khan (Chief of Operations, Bangladesh, ClickDiagnostics), Mr. Faruque
Ahmed (Director BRAC Health), Dr. Kaosar Afsana (Programme Head, BRAC Health),
Ms. Sumala Chowdhury (Country Representative, Alliance Forum Foundation) at Signing
From the urban Manoshi programme (for maternal, neonatal and child health) will use special softwareequipped mobile phones developed by ClickDiagnostics to collect patient data which will then be used for realtime screening of risky patients and strategic interventions for patient management.
27 July 2009, Dhaka. BRAC is pleased to announce that an agreement was signed on July 26th, with the Special Assistance Office of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) under which IDB will provide USD 5 million for operating and administering the agricultural component of the “Fael Khair” programme for cyclone victims in Bangladesh.
Dr. Mohammed Hassan Salem (Head of the Special Assistance Office) and Dr. Mahabub
Hossain (Executive Director of BRAC) in the signing ceremony.
The agreement was signed by Dr. Mohammed Hassan Salem, Head of the Special Assistance Office, and Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC. Under the terms of the three year agreement, BRAC will mplement the agro component initially in the Bagerhat, Barguna, Satkhira and Khulna districts, severely affected by cyclone Sidr and Aila. The “Fael Khair” is a USD 130 million IDB trust relief assistance to the victims of cyclone Sidr. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between IDB and the Government of Bangladesh in December 2008 for the implementation of the trust’s objectives. A part of the trust is to be used for the agricultural rehabilitator of victims of cyclones and other natural calamitie in the form of interest free loans for inputs for crop production and fisheries.