Protect BangladeshThe Hunger Project is a global nonprofit organization that strategizes to help end hunger and alleviate poverty in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. The Hunger Project has worked in Bangladesh since 1990. It focuses on achieving the U.N. 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additionally, the organization works to address corruption and gender discrimination to end hunger as a way to protect Bangladesh in 185 SDG unions. The poverty rate in Bangladesh has increased from 20.5% in 2019 to 29.5% in June 2020 due to an unemployment increase.

The Hunger Project Bangladesh Work History

Prior to COVID-19, The Hunger Project Bangladesh partnered with the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF) and Citizens for Good Governance (SHUJAN), seeking to achieve gender equality and eliminate corruption in Bangladesh. The organization has 109,319 trained volunteers who help Bangladesh SDG unions act toward ending hunger and other issues in Bangladesh. The four goals of the organization include mobilizing rural communities to take self-protective actions, empowering women, strengthening local government and helping build advocacy alliances between NGOs, CSOs and 63 civil society leaders as a way to protect Bangladesh.

The Hunger Project and Citizens for Good Governance established two COVID-19 social media live streams. One was with Hunger Project Bangladesh Country Director Badiul Majumdar and contagious disease expert Dr. MH Chowdhury Lelin co-hosted the other. The social media live streams helped spread reliable COVID-19 protection information while discouraging the spread of misinformation.

The COVID-19 Resilient Villages is one Hunger Project program. It follows World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and helps keep Bangladesh communities safe. Bangladesh village volunteers from 1,100 Village Development Teams created and distributed approximately 137,160 face masks, various hygiene products and COVID-19 protection information as of October 2020.

Organizational COVID-19 Goals

The Hunger Project continues to work with a volunteer-based approach that provides SDG and COVID-19 support. Deputy Director Jamirul Islam notified The Borgen Project that “during lockdown at the beginning of COVID-19, our volunteers started an initiative to collect cash and kind from solvent peoples” to give to homes without food. Islam told The Borgen Project that the organization implements this initiative in 129 SDG unions and 1,161 villages across Bangladesh. The organization believes “that people can be the author of their own futures, so people have to work to create their own paycheck.”

The Hunger Project advocated and supported two 2014 goals from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The organization aimed to end marriages for girls younger than 15 by 2021 and eliminate child marriages by 2041. The Hunger Project agreed with 168 organizations in the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum to stop the Bangladesh government from lowering the female marriage age to 16. This action resulted in 18 becoming the determined marriage age for girls except for if they receive parental consent. The organization also trained 9,400 people in water, sanitation and hygiene workshops in Bangladesh since March 2020.

Plans and Partnerships to Protect Bangladesh

Islam told The Borgen Project about how the organization empowers youth unit members and other volunteers. The organization arranges Coronavirus Resilient Village and Risk Communication in-person training. Islam said that “in each meeting, we try to connect teachers and students during COVID-19.” The Bangladesh Coronavirus Resilient Village (CRV) model has four stages that bring people together, promote COVID-19 precautions through the 3 W campaign, identify people with COVID-19 symptoms and economically support vulnerable homes and farms as a way to protect Bangladesh in approximately 1,500 villages.

Islam tells The Borgen Project that The Hunger Project Bangladesh partners with UNICEF Bangladesh, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and The Hunger Project Australia and the Netherlands. Together, they provide technical and financial support for building Coronavirus Resilient Villages. Since COVID-19, Islam noticed how “people organize themselves,” in order to be “united to fight to save themselves and to help each other.”

Islam notified The Borgen Project about how the organization partners with World Vision, Save the Children and three other NGOs to initiate the Right 2 Grow project. The project will help improve nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) protocols. It will also work on other initiatives in Bangladesh by focusing on SDGs 2, 3 and 5 from January 2021 to 2025.

The development of the project to employ SDGs 2, 3 and 5 began in November 2020 to help end hunger, ensure community health and well-being and promote gender equality. The project works in six countries including the Khulna, Patuakhali, Sathkira and Barguna Bangladesh districts. These districts have experienced repression due to various civic space issues. Both programs help villages through NGOs, CSOs and local government support while the organization focuses on peace facilitator groups related to SDG 16.

Looking Ahead

During COVID-19, the nonprofit organization taught community leaders how to advocate for COVID-19 response and circulate village resources. The Hunger Project continues volunteer CRV and Risk Communication online and in-person training in Bangladesh. The organization prepared 500,000 local leaders for COVID-19 in 13 countries as of May 2020. In September 2020, Majumdar contributed to the Bangladesh 2020 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index, which rates everything from CSO advocacy to service provisions. As Bangladesh has seen decreased COVID-19 case numbers since December 2020, the villages await vaccines that should arrive by February 2021.

Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr