Posts

Health in Bangladesh
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG founded the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) in 1972. The nonprofit began as a localized program in northeastern Bangladesh to promote agricultural reform and educational training. BRAC now influences over 11 countries in both Asia and Africa. It hones in on projects that work to improve social lives, social enterprises, national investments and university opportunities. The organization’s main accomplishments pertain to improving health in Bangladesh. Desiring the collaboration activists, BRAC enhances the abilities of individuals to gain work experience, especially with an environment that supports their physical and mental health.

Healthcare Issues in Bangladesh

Out-of-pocket spending on healthcare in Bangladesh is around 64.3% of total health spending. Bangladesh spends approximately $1.49 billion annually on situations concerning one’s health. This is concerning as average income households spend 7.5% of their total earnings on healthcare, with the least financially stable citizens, comprising the poorest 20%, spending 13.5%. The need to spend a large amount of income on healthcare puts a strain on Bangladesh families, especially since a little over 20% of the population lives below the national poverty line. Around 10% are employed for under $1.90 a day.

Money is not the only factor affecting people in Bangladesh. Only 34.6% of the population has access to purified drinking water as the country has the largest amount of citizens infected by arsenic-filled water. This dangerous chemical still contaminates nearly 10% of the water supply. Furthermore, 28.3% of the population drinks water infiltrated with various diseases that further damage physical health. Of further concern is the fact that sanitation only improves by 1.1% annually, not growing fast enough to better the environment that many citizens live in. Over 40% of latrines are unimproved, with the sewage waste even running into waterways due to a lack of sanitation programs. This exemplifies the necessity to improve individual health in Bangladesh.

Health and Nutrition

High annual healthcare costs are driving 5 million Bangladesh civilians into poverty. As a result, BRAC has deployed many healthcare workers to directly work with citizens in Bangladesh. They ensure citizens have access to quality, affordable health services. Establishing Essential Health Care (EHC), the nonprofit works to improve the immune systems of individuals. The EHC assures that people are not as easily susceptible to various diseases in the environment or water supplies. In addition to providing healthcare services for mothers and children, it also works on basic treatments to counteract the negative effects of acute respiratory infections at an affordable price. This specific program partnered with government agencies in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and now offers healthcare opportunities to more than 120 million people in the 64 districts of Bangladesh.

With the sub-section of the Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction – Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP) program, BRAC designs special needs for the 8% of the Bangladesh population that suffers from extreme poverty. Moreover, it created its Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program to provide supplementary foods to both mothers and children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Not only does this program support those suffering from malnutrition, but it eases the pain that mothers have to go through when breastfeeding and lack of vitamin intake. This enabled the education of 2 million women regarding healthy diets and the benefits of breastfeeding.

The WASH Program

The WASH program works toward improving water, sanitation and hygiene in Bangladesh and to create more hygienic practices. It has started its journey in the country by focusing on education. Many do not learn about the necessity of cleanliness. Through BRAC, however, 5,700 secondary schools have now included hygiene discussions in their curriculums. The organization is also working to ensure that local research facilities provide affordable opportunities to test every district’s water supplies.

Additionally, the nonprofit partnered with Jamalpur municipality to operate a waste plant. This effort counteracts the intrusion of waste into clean waterways. Volunteers and BRAC workers work through the WASH program to ensure health in Bangladesh. They especially focus on Rohingya refugee camps and areas that experience the effect of floods. Every dollar that goes to the program results in $4 towards sanitation improvements in Bangladesh.

BRAC wants to increase the professionalism of frontline services and introduce a strong variety of for-profit products and programs. It continues affordable programs to improve Bangladesh citizens’ health and focuses on cleaning the water supply, like introducing hanging latrines and counteracting the malnutrition that mothers and children suffer from. The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee strives specifically to reform the healthcare system in this South Asian country through such actions. Its achievements include giving 2.52 million people access to safe drinking water with the aid of technological advancements. Through its various accomplishments, this nonprofit continues to achieve more every year even after nearly 50 years of service.

Sylvia Vivian Boguniecki
Photo: Flickr

BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation ProgramOf the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the first one sets an ambitious target. To end poverty in all its forms, everywhere and to leave no one behind. One such organization embracing this challenge is Bangladesh’s BRAC. BRAC is one of the world’s largest nongovernmental development organizations founded in Bangladesh that has done a tremendous amount of work fighting extreme poverty in Bangladesh. BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program has seen success globally.

Poverty Progress in Bangladesh

Nestled between India and Myanmar in South Asia, Bangladesh has made enormous strides in combating extreme poverty in a relatively short amount of time. In a little over a decade, 25 million people were lifted out of poverty. Between 2010 and 2016, eight million people were lifted out of poverty in Bangladesh.

Although poverty rates were seeing a steady decrease, those living in extreme poverty in Bangladesh still lacked basic safety nets and support from NGO services.

BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) Program

In 2002, BRAC introduced the innovative Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) program in an attempt to apply innovative approaches to solve extreme poverty in Bangladesh and across the globe.

The UPG program aims to provide long-term holistic support for those in extreme poverty to lift themselves out of poverty and graduate to a more resilient and sustainable life. This is done by addressing the social, economic and health needs of poor families while empowering them to learn new skills and better financial management.

BRAC believes that while traditional government interventions such as food aid and cash transfers are impactful and have a role to play, these benefits, unfortunately, remain out of reach for many in extreme poverty and are certainly not a long-term solution.

BRAC’s UPG program sets to build skill sets and assets to ensure families are equipped to become food secure, independent and achieve economical sustainability.

The Success of UPG Programs Globally

The program has found success inside and outside Bangladesh and has received praise and acknowledgment in some of the world’s most impoverished regions.

Take for example the country of South Sudan. From 2013 to 2015 BRAC piloted a project involving 240 women. The program provided support for the women to receive food stipends, asset transfers and various skills training that included financial and basic savings skills.

Shortly after the women received training and support, the South Sudanese Civil War escalated, ravaging the country and causing inflation and food shortages.

Despite these shocks, 97% of the 240 women were still able to increase their consumption thanks to the resources, assets and skills they obtained during the program. Also, their children were 53% less likely to be underweight and malnourished, compared to those who had not been in the program.

More Success in Afghanistan and Other Countries

Another example comes from Afghanistan, where a widowed woman in the Bamiyan province received a flock of sheep and training from BRAC. Since then, she has been able to generate enough income to feed her family, send her grandchildren to school,  sell additional products and save for the future.

From 2007 to 2014, a large-scale UPG program across Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan and Peru saw a 4.9% increase in household consumption, 13.6% increase in asset values and a 95.7% increase in savings pooled across all countries.

The success of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program can be clearly seen from the results. It is an innovative program that aims to end all poverty and leave no one behind and is successfully on its way to doing so.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Care in BangladeshBack 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
Photo: Flickr

ShopUp Helps with Poverty Eradication in Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s economy has grown exponentially in the past 20 years. This raises its GDP per capita by 344% in total since the year 2000. In the last five years alone, this same figure surged 48%. Despite this progress, a significant portion of the country still lives below the poverty line — roughly 20% of a population of 164 million. Recent innovations in poverty eradication in Bangladesh are working to boost economic prospects and facilitate financial security for all of its citizens.

One of these innovations in poverty eradication in Bangladesh is the digital platform ShopUp. ShopUp is co-founded by Afeef Zaman, Siffat Sarwar and Ataur Chowdhury. It began with the goal to empower owners of Facebook businesses with the technical means to grow. More than 50% of Bangladeshis are self-employed. Many of them are operating e-commerce and social commerce shops through Facebook as their source of income. Also, it quickly became evident that clients’ lack of access to capital was hindering their businesses’ growth. After partnering with BRAC in 2018, a Bangladesh-based international development organization, ShopUp now aims to help small business owners acquire credit and other financials when they cannot afford the high cost of formal services.

How ShopUp Benefits Small Business Owners

Transaction records through sites like Facebook can be difficult to track and formalize for loan purposes. ShopUp automatically collects the relevant data from sales on Facebook Messenger. As a result, the merchant can more easily apply to loans from microfinance institutions. Furthermore, the process is quick. When a seller is ready to apply for a loan through ShopUp, the algorithm analyzes 25 different data points from the business’s profile. Additionally, it estimates an appropriate loan ceiling. It only takes 24 hours after approval for the financier to distribute the funds that the borrower requested.

Moreover, it increases access to capital. The service benefits microfinance enterprises by conducting a thorough and efficient online appraisal of the small business applying for the loan. Also, this allows for a significantly lower appraisal fee. This means a higher number of loans can be approved. Growth in the microfinance sector advances the market economy and creates more employment opportunities. In addition to financial assistance, ShopUp provides promotional assistance. Merchants can purchase advertisements for their shops via the service without needing to connect a bank account or credit card. Curated ad placement grants increased visibility. This results in a larger potential customer pool for emerging businesses.

Gender discrimination in Bangladesh means that women tend to face more barriers than men when it comes to employment. With ShopUp’s low cost and ease of access, it is an effective tool for female entrepreneurs to start their small businesses. Women’s participation in the labor force in Bangladesh rose to 36.2% in 2019, in part, due to the expanding market of e-commerce. Furthermore, that same year, 80% of ShopUp’s users were female.

Continued Growth of ShopUp

Investors recognize the potential for ShopUp to increase innovations in poverty eradication in Bangladesh. The founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, led a seed round in 2018 encouraging other major companies to assist in funding ShopUp’s endeavors. Google and Amazon were among the contributors for this round which resulted in a $1.62 million investment in the digital service. Data collected in January 2019 show that the platform served 380 individuals after launching the partner project with BRAC. This means it lends out a total of more than 3.1 million (BDT).

ShopUp is just one example of the innovations in poverty eradication in Bangladesh that are putting the country on track to continue its recent economic growth. Widespread Internet usage facilitates a digital market economy that has already provided new opportunities for financial gain. Having accessible services within the market for lower-income individuals is a crucial step in the process.

Jennifer Paul
Photo: Flickr

8 Groups Tackling the Pandemic in South Asia



















Many areas throughout South Asia are at an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission due to high population densities. Health infrastructure, personal protective equipment and even access to knowledge about the virus in their area are all scarce resources in South Asia. According to Executive Director of Innovations in Healthcare, Krishna Udayakumar, it is imperative that companies develop systems for data and population surveillance, testing, communications, therapeutics and vaccine development and the supply chain to eliminate COVID-19. These eight groups tackling the pandemic in South Asia are innovating products and systems that further develop and strengthen the sectors of COVID-19 relief.

8 Groups Tackling the Pandemic

  1. Maya, the digital health assistant, serves populations primarily in Bangladesh and Pakistan. The knowledge-sharing and messaging platform saw a surge in COVID related questions, specifically a 2,700 percent increase in those related to support and information. Since about 60 percent of the questions received are asking for basic information, such as the definition of coronavirus, Maya developed a symptom tracker and FAQ for its userbase of around 40,000 individuals, to help them quickly and accurately find information.
  2. NooraHealth is an organization committed to teaching patients and their families about pregnancy and elderly care to help save lives. Recently, NooraHealth has begun providing evidence-based content in India and Bangladesh to keep families informed about COVID-19. The organization has conducted over 1,300 surveys to give informed and tailored information to families. It also hopes to reach over 200 million individuals in South Asia. 
  3. SNEHA, the Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action, works to improve preventive care and promote healthcare for vulnerable urban women, adolescents and children. In light of  COVID-19, the organization started to provide direct resources to those in need. To date, SNEHA has distributed about 5,300 food ration packs and delivered personal protective materials to seven municipal organizations in South Asia. 
  4. The Swasth Foundation is a group based in India that works to improve the healthcare community by providing more effective communication and essential services. Swasth has educated more than 80,000 individuals about the coronavirus pandemic through online and phone engagement services. Additionally, the organization has provided more than 25,000 families with direct services such as food, medical care and health information so far. 
  5. Sevamob is a telehealth middleman in India working to improve communications between the patient and healthcare workers. In digitizing patient consultations, there is greater prevention of the spread of COVID-19 as well as decreased costs by about 50 percent for the patients. The organization has also developed the Sevamob Protector, a portable protection kiosk that allows a fully protected healthcare worker to examine patients and administer tests. The Sevamob Protector reduces PPE usage by up to 90 percent, saving on costs for healthcare providers.
  6. Wellthy Therapeutics is a pioneer in the digital therapeutics field, working to better conditions for those with chronic diseases through behavioral intervention. In response to COVID-19, Wellthy Therapeutics has worked to communicate to those individuals with chronic conditions that they are at increased risk for COVID-19. The organization has additionally launched a blog for those with chronic health conditions, writing posts about how to take increased precautions and preventive measures.
  7. BRAC is one of the world’s largest non-governmental organizations centered in Bangladesh. It is aiding people during the COVID-19 pandemic through social development and advancements in infrastructure. The organization has around 50,000 healthcare workers on the ground, and they all use personal protective equipment to keep themselves and their clients safe. BRAC launched many testing sites of its own, but due to large queues, it has implemented an online booking system to reduce contact.
  8. Dimagi, though an international organization, has a major office in New Delhi. Dimagi’s signature product, CommCare, is a platform for open-source mobile data collection and service delivery. Though the organization excels in the technology realm, it has also worked directly with governments to develop their health systems and internal response. According to the organization’s website, CommCare allows people to, “quickly build and deploy custom mobile applications for every phase of an effective COVID-19 response – from screening and contact tracing to patient monitoring and post-care support.”

All around the world, organizations and governments are attempting to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Non-governmental organizations are at the forefront of providing care and developing new technology in all countries, but these eight groups are tackling the pandemic in South Asia. As coronavirus cases continue to rise in South Asia, these organizations will need to give further assistance to better serve the high-density population. With increased donations and volunteers, the organizations will hopefully be able to decrease the effects of the pandemic and provide stability to the South Asia region.

Pratik Koppikar
Photo: Flickr

HYDRO IndustriesWater is essential to life, but unfortunately, there are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. Pollution, poverty and weak infrastructure are often the causes of a lack of clean water. The world’s poor population has often been obligated to travel great distances in order to get clean water. Dirty water often leads to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease. Thousands die each year from diseases due to a lack of clean water. Fortunately, a company called HYDRO Industries has a new way to provide water to those in need all over the world.

HYDRO Industries

HYDRO Industries is partnering with BRAC, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the world, to bring clean water to Bangladesh. BRAC was founded in Bangladesh, so this is their way of giving back to the community. In Bangladesh, five million people lack access to safe water, and 85 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. The current setup is not working well enough, so a new way to provide water is needed. The two organizations plan to begin their operation in Bangladesh in the spring of 2020.

HYDRO Industries will provide its products and BRAC will use its connections with local communities to establish the water treatment plants. The project aims to help around 25,000 people in the first phase and then continue to improve their product and increase the number of people they are serving. HYDRO hopes to expand all over Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal and India.

How Important is Clean Water?

  • Almost 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  • Two billion people don’t have a good toilet to use
  • A child under five dies every two minutes because of dirty water and poor toilets
  • Every minute a newborn dies because of infections from an unsanitary environment and unsafe water
  • For every $1 invested in clean water, there is a $4 increase in productivity
  • Every day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water
  • Almost 300,000 children under age five die annually from diarrheal diseases

The world’s poor population sometimes has to spend hours looking for clean water. If the water is no longer a worry, they will have more time to be productive and focus on their economy. Clean water also reduces the likelihood of disease. Better health and productivity can result in a better community in the world’s poorest places.

What Does HYDRO Do?

HYDRO is a Welsh tech company that creates innovative water treatment plants that can treat water and raise it to drinking standards. The company also uniquely treats the water. Instead of using chemicals to purify water, they use electric power, which makes the entire process more sustainable and effective than chemical-based purification.

Bangladesh is not the first place that HYDRO is planning on helping. In fact, the organization has already provided clean water to multiple poverty-stricken areas around the world. In 2016, HYDRO provided clean water for 82 East African villages. There the water treatment plants provided locals with 8.5 million liters of water every day.

Finding a new way to provide water to those in need is important to work. HYDRO Industries has an innovative method that could potentially help millions of people around the world. Using electric power, HYDRO’s water treatment units can provide water at levels above western standards. Clean water is such an immense benefit to people all over the world. Clean water helps people fight disease and death. Providing a consistent and clean source of water close to people’s homes makes communities more productive and provides a better chance of reducing poverty.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

NGOs aiming to end poverty
Hunger and poverty are problems millions of people face around the globe. According to The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people were chronically undernourished in 2016. However, in the past few decades, the world has made major progress in terms of alleviating hunger and poverty overall. Between 1990-92 and 2012-14, the global undernourished population reduced by 42 percent. There are several non-governmental and nonprofit organizations continuing on that trend to eradicate world hunger and poverty through several different methods. Below are five NGOs aiming to end poverty and hunger.

Akshaya Patra

Akshaya Patra is a nonprofit organization that began in Bengaluru, India. Since the year 2000, the organization has been providing poor children with fresh and nutritious meals at schools. The aim of the organization is to eliminate malnutrition in children, as well as support the right to education for children whose families cannot afford it. When the organization started out, it was a very small-scale project that focused on local schools in rural regions. Initially, the organization began with feeding 1,500 children locally. Today, Akshaya Patra partners with the Indian government and multiple state governments. Additionally, it feeds 1.7 million children across the country. This makes it the largest mid-day meal program in the world and one of the most successful nationwide NGOs aiming to end poverty.

Green Shoots Foundation

Green Shoots is an organization that emerged in 2010. The organization approaches poverty through microfinance, sustainable development and holistic programs. The main aim of the organization is to improve access to education and access to medical aid in developing Asian and African countries. There are multiple programs that the foundation has implemented based on the specific needs of each region. Some of these programs include Education Loans and Social Entrepreneurship (ELSE), Food Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) and Medical Assistance and Medical Education (MAME). Countries that the Green Shoots Foundation has worked in include Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger is an organization that focuses on ending hunger around the globe. The organization focuses on families with young children. So far, Action Against Hunger has contributed to providing aid in over 45 countries to over 21 million people. Its main aim is to double the number of children it is aiding by 2020, due to the fact that millions of children around the globe still remain undernourished. The organization deals with problems that stem from or worsen hunger as well, including nutrition and health, water and sanitation, food security and livelihoods and emergency response.

BRAC

BRAC is a non-governmental organization from Bangladesh. The organization mainly aims to end poverty but also focuses on several other issues that people living in rural or poor communities face. Its main social development goals include eliminating extreme poverty, increasing financial opportunities and choices, developing skills for employment and investing in education. BRAC emerged in 1972, and has since positively impacted the lives of over 100 million people globally. The program focuses on developing and improving conditions in 11 major countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Today, BRAC is the largest development organization in the world.

Water School

Water School is an organization with the aim to provide clean water and make it easily accessible to rural and poor communities in Uganda. It also educates such communities on sanitary practices involving water, health and education. Water school believes that health and education go hand in hand, and therefore focusses on improving conditions for both issues in poor communities.

Hunger and poverty are extremely large scale global issues that will take time, global effort and multiple solutions to solve. The examples of the non-governmental and nonprofit organizations above show that though progress is slow, it is steadily progressing.

These five NGOs aiming to end poverty have made significant progress on their own. Several similar organizations across the globe are working towards meeting multiple hunger and poverty goals as well.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr

children with disabities

There 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

Poverty in Bangladesh
In the last decade, numerous methods, groups and programs have attempted to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. With help from its government, as well as other governments, the nation has managed to reduce its poverty levels by over half in the last decade and is working towards reducing it even further. The country has implemented several successful development innovations. On top of it all, the country is also providing asylum to almost one million Rohingya people.

3 Organizations Reduce Poverty in Bangladesh

What has been done to get Bangladesh to this point? These are three organizations and their efforts that helped reduce poverty in Bangladesh:

  1. BRAC: As of December of 2016, the national aid organization BRAC had reached over 90,000 families in Bangladesh suffering from extreme poverty. BRAC was founded in 1972 in Bangladesh with the goal of discovering the cause of extreme poverty in the nation and ways to relieve its people. The main aim of the organization was to empower the impoverished, especially women, through interventions described as a “poverty graduation” plan. The steps of the plan are as follows: target a group, transfer assets, provide weekly stipends, encourage members to begin a savings account, provide specialized training, introduce health care and integrate the group into society. The poverty graduation plan takes around two years to complete. What’s unique about this program is it provides people with the tools to make this lifestyle sustainable so they will not fall back into poverty (if the tools remain available). To date, more than 95 percent of the participants have reached graduation.
  2. The Grameen Danone Foundation: This foundation was established in 2007. It is a social business model that aims to reduce extreme hunger in Bangladesh through the distribution of affordable yogurt that provides missing nutrients to malnourished people. The foundation created jobs for local farmers and women looking to bring themselves out of poverty. To ensure lasting jobs, the foundation used as little machinery as possible so that production would be more hands-on. On top of such action, Grameen Danone paid laborers at top prices to boost the economy. When acquiring the materials for the yogurt, the foundation goes to local farms and businesses to keep the process at a grass-roots organization level. The main priority of the organization is to provide nutritious products to extreme poverty areas at an affordable rate, while also providing jobs to those looking to help themselves.
  3. The Poverty Eradication Program (PEP): PEP is a non-profit, non-governmental (NGO) organization operating at the national level in Bangladesh. PEP focuses on rural poverty in its most extreme variations and works with the people to provide them with resources that will allow them to rise out of poverty. The organization specializes in economic, social and environmental empowerment. For example, in some instances, PEP helps families start up small businesses that will not only empower them but the whole community they live in as well. PEP will provide the resources needed to start the business then watch as it flourishes. They accomplish such feats through grants, training or offering the tools required for business.

Daily Improvement

Organizations and charities recognized that investing in the people of Bangladesh was the best way to reduce poverty. World Bank group president, Jim Yong Kim, gave a speech in 2017 praising the efforts made by Bangladesh. One of his most important points was that between 2003 and 2013, women’s employment jumped from seven million to seventeen million.

Bangladesh aims to become a middle-income country by 2021 and to eradicate most, if not all, poverty by 2030. With the help and compassion from several organizations and the government, there has been great progress to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. Many other countries could follow suit and learn from Bangladesh’s poverty reduction efforts.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Eliminating Extreme Poverty Through InnovationThe Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC) was formed in 1972 by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, is an excellent example of a nonprofit bringing transformation through strong business practices.

Today, BRAC reaches around 138 million poor spread over nine countries in Asia and Africa, and employs 125,000 people, primarily women. And yet, BRAC has remained quite unknown in the West. BRAC U.S. and BRAC U.K. were launched to spread awareness about its approach and mobilize its resources as well as raise funds for its fight to eliminate extreme poverty through innovation. It has created self-employment opportunity for 8.5 million people, educated over 3.8 million children from 66,000 of its schools, and given microloans to six million borrowers. Its approach is, “small is beautiful but big is necessary.”

What They Do

The following goals are listed on the official BRAC website:

  1. Improve well-being and resilience through disaster management and climate change, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.
  2. Assist economic development and social protection – agriculture and food security, microfinance, enterprises and investment, targeting the ultra-poor.
  3. Expand horizons of education, migration and skills development.
  4. Empower communities, women and disadvantaged, human rights and legal aid, with urban development.
  5. Support programs for governance, management and capacity building.

Social Innovation Lab (SIL)

BRAC believes in eliminating extreme poverty through innovation. SIL was formed to explore the best practices and ways of creating impact at scale and incubating new ideas. It began in the 1980s, when diarrhea was the biggest killer of children under the age of five. BRAC successfully made the most illiterate population in the world adopt oral rehydration therapy, teaching poor households to prepare homemade saline. Now, they continue to work toward bringing family planning to people despite social opposition.

BRAC has accomplished quite a lot through frugal innovation, making Bangladesh the fastest-growing mobile money market with 13 million users, and creating large-scale financial inclusion.

Current Efforts

Hundreds of Rohingya children are living in Cox’s Bazaar on the border of Bangladesh. BRAC has made initiatives to ensure prevention of widespread diseases, by providing 167,000 individuals with oral cholera vaccinations. 153,000 health services through 60 mobile health camps and 10 fixed camps have been provided to treat fever, pneumonia and diarrhea. BRAC is providing access to safe water, sanitation, child-friendly spaces and critical supplies.

The “poverty graduation” scheme offers a way of eliminating extreme poverty through innovation by tackling poverty as well as providing social confidence. Women are given an asset, usually livestock. In return, they must look after the animal, their children must be sent to school and they must save a small amount of income, along with a tiny stipend to cover their food needs. A BRAC member visits them regularly to assess improvements for two years, after which they are expected to “graduate,” or break the chain of ultra-poverty.

In the next five years, BRAC plans to empower 20 million people to gain access to resources. They are working toward completely eliminating extreme poverty through innovation by 2020 with integrated efforts.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr