Back in 1972, Fazlé Hasan Abed started a small organization called the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC). Originally dedicated to helping refugees after Bangladesh’s war for independence against Pakistan, the organization has since grown to serve 11 countries across Asia and Africa. One of the key focuses of BRAC is poverty alleviation and includes categories such as improving maternal care in Bangladesh.
BRAC’s Strategies for Poverty Reduction
BRAC engages several strategies to combat poverty, such as social enterprises. Social enterprises are self-sustaining cause-driven business entities that create social impact by offering solutions to social challenges and reinvesting surplus to sustain and generate greater impact. Some social enterprises include those seeking to promote access to fisheries, give people access to jobs in the silk industry and businesses that give seed access to farmers.
BRAC also prioritizes social development. These initiatives refer to BRAC’s on-the-ground programs. Social development efforts aim to build communities up by attempting to foster long-term development through the promotion of microfinance and gender equality and by eradicating extreme poverty.
The third focus of BRAC is investments. BRAC seeks to invest in local companies in order to create as much social impact as possible. This includes initiatives to expand affordable internet access for all and a range of other financial support services.
Finally, the organization founded a tertiary education institution called Brac University. The University, located in Bangladesh, aims to use its liberal arts curriculum in order to try and advance human capital development and help students develop solutions to local problems.
The BRAC Manoshi Maternal Care Initiative
Founded in 2007, the Manoshi program is specifically tailored to serve mothers and newborns by providing accessible care. There are a couple of unique methods that make this maternal healthcare initiative especially effective in reaching its goals of improving maternal care in Bangladesh.
One-third of people in Bangladesh live under the poverty line and a greater part of this group live in slums, making it difficult to access and afford necessary healthcare. Manoshi focuses primarily on empowering communities, particularly women, in order to develop a system of essential healthcare interventions for mothers and babies.
Manoshi’s Focal Areas for Community Development
- Providing basic healthcare for pregnant and lactating women, newborns and children under 5
- Building a referral system to connect women with quality health facilities when complications arise
- Creating women’s groups to drive community empowerment
- Skills development and capacity building for healthcare workers and birth attendants
- Connecting community organizations with governmental and non-governmental organizations to further their goals
The main methods used in the Manoshi project to achieve desired outcomes are social mapping, census taking and community engagement.
Manoshi’s Impact on Maternal Care in Bangladesh
BRAC projected that improvement in healthcare access would cause neonatal mortality to decline by 40-50% and the most recent data from the Manoshi program shows just that. Manoshi’s data shows that from 2008 to 2013, both the maternal and neonatal death rates dropped by more than half. From 2007 to 2011, the percentage of births at health facilities increased from 15% to 59%, while national averages only increased from 25% to 28%, suggesting that mothers served by Manoshi have more access to resources and facilities for safe deliveries. Prenatal care also increased from 27% to 52% in the same years.
With the substantial impact of organizational programs like Manoshi prioritizing the wellbeing of women and children, advancements with regard to maternal care in Bangladesh will hopefully only continue upward.
– Thomas Gill