children with disabitiesThere are approximately 1.5 billion people around the world living with a disability. These individuals face significant barriers to receiving an education, particularly in developing countries. Children with disabilities in Bangladesh, for example, are often misunderstood by their parents, community members and educators, making it difficult for them to attend school. Showing links between poverty and disabilities helps make this issue a priority of the Bangladesh government and other organizations working in the nation.

Poverty and Disabilities

In developing countries, poverty and disabilities often reinforce each other. According to the World Bank, 15 to 20 percent of the poor in developing countries are disabled. Many disabilities are created by conditions caused by poverty, including lack of healthcare access, poor hygiene and sanitation, dangerous living conditions, war and violence, insufficient nutrition and natural disasters. These conditions improve the likelihood of people developing disabilities in the first place, of which 50 percent are preventable.

Being disabled is an additional disadvantage for the impoverished, one that makes it even less likely for an individual or their family to rise out of poverty. When access to education for children with disabilities is low, these children are not able to learn the skills needed to work and earn money for themselves or their families. As a result, they tend to be dependents their entire lives, creating an additional economic burden for those who care for them.

In Bangladesh, husbands and wives in impoverished families often both need to work. With a disabled child, however, mothers are often prevented from working, eliminating that source of income. Additionally, medical care for the child is expensive and generally inaccessible to impoverished families in Bangladesh. While it is not the child’s fault that they are disabled, their disability can be difficult for impoverished families to bear and may make it impossible for them to break the poverty cycle.

Barriers to Education

As of 2010, there were approximately 1.6 million children with disabilities in Bangladesh, and fewer than 5,000 of them were enrolled in education programs designed for the disabled. Special education programs are not present in many Bangladesh schools. As a result, most educators are not trained to effectively work with children with disabilities.

Many schools deny admittance to children with disabilities, and those who do go to school often drop out within a short period of time. In addition to lack of adequate programming, the school buildings themselves are often inaccessible to those with disabilities. They lack elevators, automatic doors, handicapped toilet facilities and more.

Furthermore, the impoverished parents of children with disabilities in Bangladesh are often illiterate and do not have access to information about the rights of their child. They may not know that their child has a constitutional right to an education. Furthermore, even if they do know, they lack the funds needed to fight for their child.

Families and communities sometimes also lack information about what it means to be disabled, particularly if they are poor and illiterate. Children with disabilities are sometimes neglected and ignored and are often kept inside the home to prevent ridicule from the community. Abuse is also common, particularly for girls. Females are at an increased risk of physical and sexual abuse.

Improving Access to Education

The government is working to implement reforms that will increase education access to children with disabilities in Bangladesh. Many of these reforms include ensuring knowledge about the disabled is more widely disseminated. Community awareness programs are needed to teach people about disabilities, reduce stigma and generate more support for improving education for children with disabilities.

Additionally, knowledge of disabilities must be included in the basic training of teachers, and it can be reinforced or introduced to current teachers through in-service training. While it is also beneficial to have some teachers who can specialize in working with children with disabilities, all teachers need to be trained so that disabled children have a better chance of succeeding in any classroom.

Programs for Children with Disabilities

As of 2011, the government opened 13 primary schools specifically for people with disabilities. They are also implementing 64 integrated programs within high schools for the disabled. These efforts are undoubtedly making an impact, but many children with disabilities may not have access to these locations. There is a definite need to significantly expand these programs, creating more schools focused on disabilities around the country and ensuring all schools have programs for children with disabilities.

In the absence of widespread disability programming at public schools, BRAC has been working to expand education for children with disabilities in Bangladesh. More than 30,000 non-formal education centers have been established across the nation over the past two decades, and currently, 43,000 children are using these education centers. BRAC is committed to ensuring that the impoverished children and those in remote areas have access to schools.

Overall, efforts by the government and outside agencies, including BRAC, are an important step forward, but further growth and expansion are needed to ensure that all children with disabilities in the nation are able to access high-quality education. This will reduce the economic burden on their families and, hopefully, allow them to find work once they reach adulthood, helping them and their families escape poverty.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable AgricultureThe Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is a huge non-profit organization established in Switzerland by the company Syngenta, a multinational chemical and agriculture business. Founded in Switzerland in 1999, Syngenta was acquired by the government-owned Chinese company ChemChina in 2017 for $43 billion, which is reported to be the largest corporate acquisition by China to date. To some, this may sound like e a conflict of interest, all for optics and profit. However, with backers such as the United Nations, several governments and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has legitimate support.

What the SFSA Does

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture helps small farmers across the developing world on many fronts. It offers insurance programs for small farmers with affordable premiums to help them if the weather turns foul or their livestock gets sick. This is an enticing and helpful deal for farmers, especially in areas where the weather can be inconsistent. The SFSA also helps farmers plant crops that are more likely to weather the storms and produce a higher quality product at a higher yield.

To take full advantage of their new product, the SFSA teaches marketing and other business strategies to their farmer partners. With a surplus of crops, these farmers can now make a profit whereas before they barely made a living. One of their partners is Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh. Normally, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh specializes in capital gains, but they also have a social outreach program that focuses on improving working conditions, pay and other social policies including improving nutrition in Bangladesh.

Failure and Success

In the United States, specifically in the State of Kansas, the Syngenta had a rocky start. In 2011, Syngenta introduced GMO corn seeds to Kansas farms before it had the approval to trade with China. This oversight closed off an entire market to these corn growers and processors, causing the price of corn to drop and resulting in the loss of profits. A class-action lawsuit followed. In 2018, a Kansas federal judge ordered Syngenta to create a fund to pay $1.5 billion in damages to companies and farmers in the corn business.

Since 2014, Syngenta and the United Nations have been working together in Bangladesh. This program was initiated to educate farmers on better farming techniques and to get their opinion and input about the issues they face. To do this, the SFSA held townhall-style meetings where they met and listened to these farmers. Since the SFSA started working in Bangladesh in 2001, 30 of their farming hubs have been created. Farmers who have participated have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity per acre and a 34 percent increase in household income.

Though it may have had a rocky start, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has since proven itself to be an asset to a farmer around the world. Looking at joint projects with other organizations around the world, it is easy to see a lot of benefits. It is providing humanitarian aid around the world in the form of agricultural aid and education. Increasing sustainable agriculture and crop yields will go a long way to helping alleviate poverty around the world.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bangladesh
Bangladesh, a small South Asian country located to the right of India, is known for its lush greenery and extensive waterways. Home to one of the longest continuous beach on the planet and the world’s only mangrove forest, the country is characterized by its natural beauty. However, with more than 1,100 people living in each square kilometer, the country faces unique challenges. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Bangladesh:

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bangladesh

  1. Nearly a quarter of Bangladeshi people are living below the national poverty line, according to 2015 World Bank data. That roughly works out to almost 41 million people. In addition, according to the Food Security Portal, “Bangladesh’s high poverty and undernutrition rates are exacerbated by frequent natural disasters and high population density.”
  2. The capital city of Dhaka is home to almost 9 million people. More than 2 million of these individuals either live in slums or are without any proper shelter.
  3. A dramatic influx of refugees from Myanmar means that people have no choice but to live in dangerous and over-crowded situations. According to the World Food Programme, “slopes in the camps are unstable and are at risk of collapsing during monsoon rains.” UNICEF estimates that 693,000 Rohingya (over half of whom are children) have been driven into Bangladesh since April 2018.
  4. Health care conditions and services are lacking. According to the World Health Organization, the number of hospital beds per 1,699 people is just four. Additionally, only 3 percent of Bangladesh’s entire GDP expenditure is allocated to health care.
  5. Though access to drinking water access is widespread, half of it fails to meet safety standards. In addition, the only city in the country that has a sewer system is Dhaka, and it only serves 18 percent of the city. According to the World Bank, in urban areas of Bangladesh, only about a third of the population has access to piped water.
  6. Roads suffer from extreme and frequent traffic jams due to the country’s incredibly high population density. According to Internations, “this makes driving in the cities very difficult and unpleasant due to issues with air pollution, dangerous driving and common road rage incidents.”
  7. Bangladesh has reduced its total fertility rate from 5 (children per woman) in 1966 to just 2.44 in 2016. A regional frontrunner, Bangladesh is on track to reach a total fertility rate of 2.1, the amount where, without migration, a country’s population is neither increasing or decreasing.
  8. The country is making strides in terms of development. The economy is growing which has led to improvements in primary education, gender equality, as well as improved rates of child and maternal mortality.
  9. Rates of open defecation have improved significantly. In 2015, just 1 percent of the population engaged in open defecation compared to 34 percent in 1990. Though the rate of growth is slow at only 1.1 percent annually, the current rate of improved sanitation is at 61 percent.
  10. Poverty and extreme poverty are declining, and currently stand at 31.5 and 17.6 percent respectively. Rates of poverty have almost halved since 1990, with 44.2 million people considered impoverished in 1991 and 24.1 million in 2015.

While continuing to deal with unique circumstances due to its high population density and geography, Bangladesh is making strides towards improving living conditions for its people. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Bangladesh only capture part of a diverse and developing country and indicate that, for the country’s people, the future is bright.

– Chelsey Crowne
Photo: Flickr

How Politics Affect Poverty
In the last decade, there have been many studies regarding how politics and various government institutions shape poverty.

For the poorest and most vulnerable, the way in which their governments operate makes a profound difference in their lives. The incapacity of government institutions to prevent conflict, provide basic security or basic services can have detrimental consequences for their citizens, especially for the poor.

How Politics Affect Poverty

The instability of economic growth can make countries depend indefinitely on foreign aid. In countries where cultural or ethnic groups feel that there is economic, political and social inequality, wars are more likely to occur, causing a vicious cycle that leads to poverty.

In many instances the poor are marginalized and their voices are not heard. The poor, more than any other group, rely on basic public services.

These services work better for the poor when poor citizens participate in reforms of service delivery. In conflict-affected states, the supply of these services is very scarce.

Political instability, poor governance and corruption are a major phenomenon affecting poverty in the world today.

The Case of Haiti and Madagascar

For example, rudimentary to the prevalent problem of poverty in Haiti is the extensive history of political turmoil and the lack of governance.

Corruption and the misuse of public funds resulted in a reduction in the quality of all public services for the country. This includes the fundamental areas of traditional governmental responsibility, such as the police, the justice system and the provision of elemental infrastructure.

This makes Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world.

Madagascar is another example of how politics affects poverty. Madagascar was a country with a lot of economic potential before the big crisis of 2008.

Before the crisis, Madagascar had economic growth of 5 percent per year but economic growth became stagnant from 2008 up until 2013.

Since 2009, Madagascar has been in an intense political turmoil created by an unconstitutional change of government.

The political crisis and instability created uncertainty for private investment. Throughout these years of political upheaval, Madagascar’s social and economic growth became severely damaged.

Discriminatory Laws

Racial, gender and ethnic discrimination are directly related to how politics affects poverty in some countries of the world and it needs to be addressed if it is to successfully decrease inequality and poverty.

For example, in Bangladesh, discriminatory family laws on marriage, separation and divorce push some women further into poverty.

In 20 years, Bangladesh has made great progress in its life expectancy and raised it by 10 years and has reduced infant mortality by more than half.

According to recent studies, both the rich and the poor are benefiting from these improvements.

However, according to the Human Rights Watch, women in the country do not benefit from these gains due to discriminatory family laws that push them deeper into poverty.

Migration is another aspect related to how politics affects poverty.

Migrant workers usually do not engage in political action about wages and conditions and they also lack the rights associated with citizenship and residency.

The laws governing immigration also often deprive these workers of labor or welfare protection, compel their ability to seek adequate working conditions.

Nongovernmental organizations’ Role

Nongovernmental organizations are an important part in helping alleviate poverty in many underdeveloped and third world countries.

For example, these organizations complement government in mobilizing additional resources in benefiting the greater number of people in need and enhancing program results through their participation in project management, monitoring and evaluation.

Typically, people fall into four categories of poverty that require different approaches.

The first category is made of people who are temporarily incapable of work, the second category consists of those who have some resources but lack business skills or efficiency.

The third category is made up of those who are capable of work but external conditions or resources like jobs are poor and the fourth category comprises those who are permanently incapacitated, such as the severely disabled.

Nongovernmental organizations can provide huge help for the first and the second category.

Unlike some development players, nongovernmental organizations are more willing to help and provide innovative solutions to the people’s problems allowing them to gain support sooner.

Policymakers must use conscientious new approaches to generate productive jobs, increase the minimum wage, ensure investment in low-income communities, improve education and training and create more opportunities for everyone to apply their talents.

In conclusion, it is important that all governmental institutions become aware of the problem that poverty brings to societies and the impact that it has in the economic growth and development of a nation.

By becoming fully aware and not ignoring it anymore, policymakers have the responsibility to create laws that will help alleviate poverty in their communities.

It is important to tackle it and not to continue blaming the individual citizen for his misfortune but to provide guidance and opportunities for poor people to step out of the hole they’re in.
Photo: Unsplash

Cooling in Developing Countries
Cooling in developing countries is a major problem that affects health, disease treatments and hunger.

Many developing countries do not have access to electricity and consequently do not have proper cooling systems either.

Lack of cooling makes it difficult for fresh produce to last, leading to massive food waste. An average of 23 percent of food production in developing countries is lost because of poor refrigeration.

Cooling in India

In India, around 70 percent of people do not have refrigerators. With 43 percent of rural and 13 percent of urban households not receiving enough electricity to maintain a fridge, access to cooling for the public is limited.

This makes it difficult for people to store food for long periods of time and puts more strain on women, who traditionally have to cook for their families.

A lack of refrigeration is present in the food industry as well, where only 4 percent of produce is refrigerated during transport, causing losses of $4.5 billion each year.

This poses a huge risk to India’s growing food sector, especially as it moves towards perishables and limits India’s ability to accommodate its growing food demand.

Although the country has more arable farmland than most countries, India’s domestic production is expected to meet only 59 percent of its demand in 2030.

One of the reasons for this inefficiency is because farmers cannot store their food for long periods of time, leading to around 40 percent of agriculture production to go to waste. With many farmers being considered food insecure, poor access to cooling proves to be a major roadblock in reducing hunger.

The lack of cooling is also dangerous for vaccines since 20 percent of health care products and 25 percent of vaccines are damaged due to poor cooling systems in the country.

Although air conditioning ownership has gone up from 2 million in 2006 to 5 million households in 2011, that number still only represents around 3 percent of Indian households. Restricted energy access prevents many from being able to purchase air conditioners.

Still, the Indian cooling industry is expected to grow up to 25 percent each year, showing that progress is being made for cooling in developing countries.

The government is making changes and has taken an initiative through the National Cooling Action Plan.

A major focus of the 2018 plan is household air conditioners. As more and more people purchase them, energy efficiency and environmental consciousness have become increasingly important.

The action plan discusses ways to reduce the energy intake of air conditioners so that poorer families with lower access to energy can afford to maintain them. Another approach is cool roofs that encourage using certain materials to reduce the amount of heat that gets trapped inside a building.

With cool roofs being cheaper and advantageous for India’s rising temperatures, more cities are implementing them as a viable cooling method.

The Case of Nigeria

Nigeria similarly faces rising temperatures and low access to electricity, both which contribute to unsatisfied demand for cooling devices.

Over 50 million rural and 44 million urban Nigerians do not have adequate access to electricity and, consequently, refrigeration. Restricted cold food storage continues to the agriculture sector, where 36.7 percent of production goes to waste due to a lack of cooling.

With food and vaccines at risk of spoiling, Nigeria’s defense against hunger and disease is impaired. Nigeria’s history of disease outbreaks and high rates of poverty make this issue critical.

In response to these potential and immediate effects of the lack of cooling, the first National Food Safety Policy was adopted in 2013. One of its goals is to reduce food waste, which it addressed through improving cold chain efficiency.

Corresponding to the goals set in the policy, the Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transport Program (NEXTT) works towards economic development in Nigeria. In order to expand trade, NEXTT analyzes the inefficiencies in Nigeria’s existing cold chain.

Through projects like these, cooling in developing countries is making progress.

Cooling in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, cooling is especially important for almost 50 percent of the population that are farmers. While many of them farm mainly for their own families, they do sell any surplus.

However, their sales are limited by how long their product lasts without a refrigerator, causing around 50 percent of production to spoil before being sold.

A Bangladeshi food company, Golden Harvest, dealt with this problem firsthand when most of the food they bought from farmers was spoiled. As a result, their own perishable products were unable to sell because of the unreliability of local farmers.

In response, they partnered with USAID to establish the first integrated cold chain system in Bangladesh. USAID helped to provide farmers with education related to maximizing their yields and gave technical assistance with Golden Harvest’s projects.

Golden Harvest has since invested in numerous refrigerated trucks, freezers and cold storage units. As the company grows, it continues to provide a foundation for the cold chain in Bangladesh.

Cooling in developing countries is no doubt urgent issue, especially with rising global temperatures.

Food insecurity, vaccine distribution and poverty are all exacerbated by poor cooling systems.

For many countries, access to refrigeration is vital to the advancement of their respective food industries, especially as the total population constantly increases in those countries.

Still, numerous projects are implemented towards improving the issue of low access to cooling in developing countries, showing hope that the situation will soon be resolved.

– Massarath Fatima
Photo: Pixabay

Radio Naf
At the start of 2017, the refugees of Rohingya fled in the thousands from Myanmar. Today, many of their lives are still in disarray as they search for family, look for new homes and deal with the trauma from the violence that drove them out of their country.

Rohingya refugees often lack the information to take the next steps towards these goals. The use of media within camps has been vital to dealing with the emergency and keeping refugees connected with each other and the outside world, so Rohingya refugee media has been given a new voice: Radio NAF.

Radio NAF: A Voice for the Voiceless

In times of crisis like this one, access to information is almost as vital as food, shelter, and water. Local media can and has been used as a platform to update refugees on the status of their hometowns, educate them on sanitary practices and guide them toward necessary resources. Moreover, media has been used as a platform for refugees to voice their experiences and call the rest of the world to action.

Radio NAF is a community-based radio station in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. The station serves the rural and underserved communities in the region, which also happens to be home to the largest Rohingya refugee settlement, Kutupalong. The station interviews refugees and discusses the issues that affect them.

Due to the poor radio reception in these areas, all of the shows are prerecorded and brought to the communities through seven “listener clubs.” While the population in the settlement has declined slightly, listenership and attendance have risen, indicating that this is an invaluable source of information for those that come to and remain at the settlement.

But, another reason for the influx in attendance could also be the station’s ability to provide a voice to the voiceless. The station’s interviews allow individuals and groups in the settlements to make statements and send messages that reach far beyond the Rohingya refugee community. Its programs also tackle important issues like violence against women, and it also provides entertainment of the children in among the refugee, who comprise more than half of the population.

British Broadcast Corporation Media Action

Radio Naf is backed by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC). BBC’s international development charity, BBC Media Action, has worked in conjunction with local Radio Naf employees—some of whom are refugees themselves—to analyze the issues and needs of the Rohingya refugees as told by the Rohingya refugees themselves.

The charity focuses its efforts on alleviating these specific problems, but it also shares all of its information with the United Nations, NGOs and governments working to mitigate the crisis. Through Rohingya refugee media, the people have the ability to make their voices thoroughly heard and get the message out to these organizations for swift and proper actions.

BBC backed Radio Naf has uncovered sanitary, financial, linguistic and logistic issues that continue to persist in the Rohingya refugee camps while sharing crucial necessities and calls to action to key players in the relief, which has been the focus of Radio Naf and its interviews. But, in order to bring about progress, this hope must be met with an eagerness to hear their voices and act on those issues.

Rohingya refugee media is an essential component to connecting refugees and working to alleviate some of the pain and misfortune that they have lived through. It has developed a platform for the spread of hope. This hope, after even a year into the crisis, echoes from community to community, from settlement to settlement.

– Julius Long
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in Bangladesh
Solar energy in Bangladesh is becoming more and more mainstream. In a country reliant on fossil fuels to produce most of its energy, solar grids and solar-powered water pumps are helping farmers save money and economy to develop in the right way.

Bangladesh Energy Sector

Bangladesh primarily uses fossil fuels to constitute their energy sector. Natural gas accounts for 75 percent of primary commercial energy supply. The country has become increasingly more dependent on natural gas. Natural gas consumption has increased by 300 percent between 1992 and 2012.

Bangladesh also relies heavily on oil, using primarily refined and unrefined petroleum fuels. About 45 percent of the country’s total oil consumption is consumed in the transportation sector and 21 percent is used for irrigation.

The total yearly production of power in the country is 423 megawatts. Out of this number, renewable energy sources only make up 3.5 percent of total energy production.

The country’s renewable energy policy aimed to achieve the situation in which 5 percent of the energy produced yearly would come from renewable energy sources by 2015. Only 3.5 percent of the energy produced in 2015 came from renewables. The country set up a new goal and plans to generate at least 10 percent of renewable electricity in 2020.

Solar Energy in Bangladesh

As of 2017, Bangladesh has the world’s largest Solar Home System (SHS), with about 5 million SHS in the country. The organization leading the charge in developing this technology is Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which has been developing SHS technology for Bangladesh since 2003.

The organization has been producing an estimated 65,000 SHSs per month. Since Bangladesh adopted SHS in 1996, over 30 million people have directly benefited from solar energy, resulting in 100,000 new jobs being created. Bangladesh has over 300 days of sunlight a year, making it a prime destination for solar technology.

Bangladesh has also been investing in solar irrigation pumps. The country plans on replacing the 1.3 million irrigation pumps currently running on diesel with solar, with 617 already been installed as of 2017. It is estimated that replacing all of the diesel water pumps will generate 10,000 megawatts of solar energy.

Improvements in Solar Energy

In 2015, SkyPower announced they would be investing $4.3 billion in utility-scale solar energy over the next five years. Over those five years, the company will also be gifting 1.5 million SkyPower Home solar kits to people living in Bangladesh. The Chief Commercial Officer of Skypower said that the investment will create more than 42,000 total job years and 500 MW of fabrication and assembly facilities.

It was announced in July 2017 that the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) planned to develop a solar power zone in the Chandpur district, with the target of generating at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The plan will be implemented on approximately 4,000 acres of land that will be the country’s largest hub for solar power.

The BEZA chief said in an interview with the Dhaka Tribune that a major percentage of the electricity generated through this would be supplied to the national grid to help meet the growing demand for electricity.

Bangladesh currently produces 1,379 megawatts of electricity, and the government aims to generate 24,000 megawatts of power by 2021 and 60,000 megawatts by 2041.

Solar energy in Bangladesh is being developed at a rapid rate and will continue to constitute more of the country’s energy production. With year-round sunshine and cost-efficiency in mind, solar power is the answer to this country’s energy needs.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Treating Tuberculosis in Bangladesh
Every hour, nine people die from tuberculosis in Bangladesh. High rates of poverty, overcrowding and a lack of information about the disease combine to make treating tuberculosis in Bangladesh particularly difficult.

As of 2017, 244,201 Bangladeshis were suffering from tuberculosis. Nearly 6,000 of these patients were infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis.

The Problem of Drug-resistant Tuberculosis

Improper tuberculosis treatment has led to the occurrence of drug-resistant tuberculosis. When physicians prescribe the wrong drug or dose, or when patients do not finish their entire course of treatment, the tuberculosis bacteria evolve to become resistant to that treatment. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) poses a unique challenge in Bangladesh.

While regular tuberculosis is entirely curable with proper treatment, the cure rate for MDR-TB is only 50 percent. Treatment for regular tuberculosis takes as little as six months, while the treatment for MDR-TB takes up to two years. The extra treatment time hits poor families the hardest since more time in the hospital bed means less time at work. Tuberculosis, especially MDR-TB, can deepen the cycle of poverty.

Bangladesh Innovates Treatment Plans

Bangladesh doctors have pioneered a new treatment course that uses a combination of drugs at different doses and they have been able to reduce the MDR-TB treatment time to nine months. This new treatment lowers the cost of treatment from $4,000 down to below $1,000. Since health care resources are scarce, this improvement means that more lives can be saved. New community-based approaches have also been successful in treating tuberculosis in Bangladesh.

Community-based Approach

The new community-based approach has also been successful in treating tuberculosis in the country. In Bangladesh, treatment of MDR-TB was generally confined to a few national hospitals. But in 2012, the Ministry of Health, with support from the National Tuberculosis Program, launched a new approach: community-based programmatic management of drug-resistant tuberculosis (CPMDT). Although it has a long name, this approach has a very simple goal: to shift the focus of treatment away from national hospitals and toward a decentralized, community-based approach. Treatment is now supervised by Upazila-level health centers. An Upazila is a type of administrative region or sub-district.

Instead of staying in a hospital for the entire course of treatment, patients will only spend brief stints there before moving either home or to outpatient Upazila health centers.

DOT Providers Play a Crucial Role

Directly-observed therapy (DOT) means that a health care worker regularly observes the tuberculosis patient, prescribes the proper dosage and actually watches the patient take the proper dose. In the CPMDT intervention, DOT providers visit patients daily, taking the opportunity to screen family members for tuberculosis as well.

The new model also places more emphasis on psychosocial support. DOT providers counsel the patients, focusing on providing nutritional support and even vocational training. The Bangladeshi government even provides patients with a monthly nutrition stipend.

Overall, the intervention has increased the proportion of MDR-TB patients enrolled in treatment, reduced treatment delay and improved outcomes. Following this intervention in Bangladesh, researchers measured a 76 percent cure rate which is much higher than the global average of 56 percent.

Thanks to a dedicated government and devoted community health care workers, treating tuberculosis in Bangladesh has become a more manageable feat. The success of these decentralizing government interventions has promising implications and other governments can learn a lot from Bangladesh to improve their own health care outcomes.

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

Bangladesh Bangladesh’s $28 billion garment industry is massive and accounts for 12 percent of the country’s GDP. The industry has provided paid employment to millions of women who flock to the capital of Dhaka as well as to other centers of production in Bangladesh. But, even as it provides the hope of improved living standards, the Bangladesh garment industry threatens the health, safety and even lives of the people it employs. As such, the Bangladesh Safety Accord aims to protect and ensure a better life for Bangladeshi garment workers.

Working Conditions

Working conditions for Bangladeshis in the garment industry have been terrible for decades ever since the 1980s when foreign investment in Bangladeshi garment production helped to fuel the “fast fashion” revolution in cheap, disposable clothing. Since the 1990s, thousands have been killed and maimed in factory fires and building collapses in the country.

When the Rana Plaza Factory collapsed on April 24th, 2013 and killed 1,134 workers and injured 2,500 more, it came as no surprise to the people working inside these buildings. Indeed, they had tried to warn the factory foremen about the cracks spreading in the walls of the unsafe factories, but were told to go to work or they would lose their jobs.

The 2013 Bangladesh Safety Accord

The Rana Plaza disaster caused a stir in the international community and forced consumers to weigh the moral and ethical costs of buying from their favorite brands — such as H & M, Wal-Mart, Gap, Sears, Primark and numerous others. Less than a month after Rana Plaza, these companies began to sign onto a new way of monitoring global garment supply chains: The Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord. Some of these companies signed voluntarily, others under intense pressure from consumers and unions outraged by the negligence that led to the collapse.

Signatories of the Accord, a legally binding document, promised to ensure that:

  • Independent building fire and safety inspectors would be hired by the workers and their unions instead of hired by employers
  • Signatories would pay for remediation of any safety violations these inspectors found
  • That if brands don’t abide by the rules of the Accord they may face lawsuits in their home countries
  • That brands would support extensive worker training programs to teach workers their rights

The 2018 Bangladesh Safety Accord

The first Accord expired this year, and a second Accord is now seeking signatories. So far, brands such as H & M, Adidas and Primark have signed onto the accord.

Some retailers are noticeably missing from the new Accord. For example, Ikea, (which is included as part of the 2018 Accord because the textile industry is newly being held up to these standards) has expressed resistance to signing the accord, choosing instead to stick to IWAY, their company-wide code-of-conduct.

Abercrombie & Fitch and Sean Combs’ label Sean John are two other holdouts on the Accord.

These companies insist that corporate social responsibility codes will be sufficient to protect workers in their supply chains. But repeatedly, independent experts have found that only worker-driven corporate responsibility codes have brought real improvements in factory safety standards and other measures of good working conditions: limiting supervisor abuses of workers, beatings, sexual harassment etc.

What’s New in the 2018 Accord

According to the Bangladesh Safety Accord website, the new elements of the 2018 Accord are:

  • Safety Committee and Safety training in all covered factories (no tiers)
  • Training and Complaints Protocol to cover Freedom of Association rights (tbd) (In other words, workers must be allowed to organize and join unions.)
  • Workers’ severance payments when factories close or relocate (a common practice in the globalized garment industry. Corporations simply relocate–often failing to pay their workers–instead of raising wages, lowering hours or making safety repairs.)
  • It expands the scope of the Accord: for the first time including workers in home textiles; fabric and knit accessories; and there is talk of expanding further potentially to other industries (including consumer electronics)
  • It proposes to institutionalize Accord functions in a national regulatory body.

The Good News

The results of the Bangladesh Safety Accord have been momentous. In her book, We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now” The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages,” Annelise Orleck, author and History Professor at Dartmouth College, writes that “Before the accord, an average of two hundred workers were dying every year in Bangladesh garment factories. In 2013, the death toll was much higher. In 2016-2017, there were zero deaths.”

Orleck writes that in the four years since the Accord was signed, “1,600 factories were inspected, 100,000 safety improvements were made, and there were 7,000 follow-ups to monitor improvements.” 

While wage increases are not guaranteed in the Accord, the agreement is helping workers feel safer about speaking up in a country where the minimum wage is still just 32 cents an hour. It is hopeful that in the next few years, the Accord will continue to be successful, and that workers will no longer risk arrest for joining unions, negotiating better conditions and pay, and resisting sexual violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in BangladeshThe small South Asian nation of Bangladesh has undergone economic development and extremely rapid population growth. Despite economic growth in the country, Bangladesh struggles with overwhelming poverty. In order to gain a better understanding of poverty and how it’s changing in the country, below are the top 10 facts about poverty in Bangladesh.

List of Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh’s economy has grown rapidly since developing the industry and service sectors of the economy. This led to increased job opportunities and standard of living. In 1980, Bangladesh had a GDP of $18.14 billion. As of 2016, the country’s economy has risen to a staggering estimated $261.4 billion, ranking as the 43rd highest in the world.
  2. Although Bangladesh’s GDP has always been relatively high due to agriculture, GDP growth in the country has increased exponentially in recent years. This GDP development was catalyzed in the early 1990s, with approximately 5.76 percent average GDP growth. As of 2017, Bangladesh has continued to maintain its growth at 7.3 percent.
  3. Industry and services form a large part of Bangladesh’s economy, with specialized jobs and manufacturing continuing to increase. The service industry accounts for a majority of the GDP in Bangladesh at an estimated 56.5 percent, while industry and agriculture contributions compose 29.2 percent and 14.2 percent of the GDP respectively. Although the service industry contributes the most to Bangladesh’s economy, 63.2 percent of the country’s 163 million people work in industry and agriculture.
  4. The unemployment rate in Bangladesh is low, with an estimated 4 percent unemployment rate. While economic opportunity has been improved for many Bangladeshis, this number is somewhat inaccurate due to underemployment rates. An estimated 40 percent of laborers are underemployed and work only a few hours a week with very low wages.
  5. Poverty rates in Bangladesh have also steadily dropped as the country’s economy improves. In 2010, 31.5 percent of the population was deemed to live below the line of poverty, which is defined as living on $1.90 a day. This number dropped to 24.3 percent by 2016.

  6. In addition to decreasing poverty rates in Bangladesh, the number of those in extreme poverty, living on just $1.90 purchasing power parity a day has also dropped significantly. The rate of employed workers living in extreme poverty was at 73.5 percent in 2010 and has dropped drastically to 14.8 percent in 2016. Poverty and hunger, however, remain serious issues in Bangladesh. According to 2014-2016 estimates from Asian Development Bank, an estimated 15.1 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment.
  7. Life expectancy in Bangladesh has risen drastically, catalyzed by rapid infrastructural and economic expansion. In 1960, the average lifetime of Bangladeshis was approximately 46 years and has more than increased to 72.5 years by 2016.
  8. School enrollment in Bangladesh has increased as development began to increase. In 1980, only 20.5 percent of primary school students completed their full studies, while this number has increased to 66.2 percent by 2016. This increase in academic persistence is likely attributed to more opportunity for skilled laborers and decreased levels in poverty.
  9. Despite increased primary school enrollment in Bangladesh, the adult literacy rate in the country is relatively low at 72.76 percent. In young adults aged 15-24, however, the literacy rate is much higher at 92.24 percent, and the female literacy rates are relatively higher at 93.54 percent than males at 90.91 percent.
  10. In the capital city of Dhaka, issues of population density have arisen, as the city’s population is over 18 million people (in the Greater Dhaka area), nearly an eleventh of the country’s population. This population density is one of the highest in the world.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Bangladesh showcase an improved economy that offers more opportunities for its many citizens. A drastic increase in the service and skilled industries along with manufacturing and agricultural growth, has allowed the country to improve its standard of living.

Although the economy has rapidly developed, poverty for many in Bangladesh still persists. With more development and emphasis on education and diversified economy, poverty will continue to decrease in Bangladesh.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr