New data reveals increased pressure on teenage girls in Bangladesh to submit to child marriage amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The data reveals an 84 percent increase in the number of child marriages prevented in the first nine months of 2020

Girls in a BRAC youth empowerment program

DHAKA, BANGLADESH — BRAC today released new data revealing the increased pressure on teenage girls in Bangladesh to submit to child marriage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The data reveals the number of child marriages prevented by Polli Shomaj, the community-based women’s groups that are active in 54 out of 64 districts in Bangladesh. Among other activities, Polli Shomaj work to stop child marriages and other forms of violence, and help women access community and government resources. The data is released today, as the world celebrates International Day of the Girl.

The data reveals an 84 percent increase in the number of child marriages prevented in the first nine months of 2020, compared to the first nine months of 2019. In the third quarter of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic widespread, the number of child marriages prevented grew by 219 percent, compared to the third quarter of 2019. The increase in child marriages prevented grew by 571 percent from the first quarter of 2020 to the third quarter of 2020.

The quarterly comparisons are as follows:

Months Number of Child Marriages that Polli Shomaj Prevented in 2019 Number of Child Marriages that Polli Shomaj Prevented in 2020
January- March 96 79
April-June 109 74
July-September 166 530
Total 371 683

 

BRAC’s Community Empowerment Program reports that while 683 child marriages were prevented by Polli Shomaj, a total of 778 child marriages were still reported between January and September 22, 2020. In 2019, 371 were prevented by Polli Shomaj, and 460 were reported. This is a rise of 84 percent in prevented cases and 69 percent in reported ones.

The number of child marriages prevented is a key indicator, because it reflects awareness by Polli Shomaj of local incidents and trends. The women in Polli Shomaj are well connected in their communities and understand the pressures that girls and families are under.

“These numbers are of enormous concern. This is just a glimpse of the social disruption that COVID-19 has brought on. An immediate concerted effort on socioeconomic recovery by public, private, and social sectors is critical to prevent child marriage; otherwise, we will fall behind on the progress we have made so far on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC Bangladesh.

Among the factors that Polli Shomaj cite as contributing to the growing attempts at child marriage are a range of social conditions enhanced by COVID-19. They include increasing job losses and poverty; growing food insecurity; the closing of schools, which reduces options for girls and increases the likelihood that they will not return to school; social distancing, which makes it easier to keep knowledge of child marriages from other members of the community; the reduced cost of a wedding, because large gatherings are not allowed; closed government offices, which makes it hard to check birth certificates; distraction of local government officials by the pandemic and efforts to reduce it; and the return of men who made money at overseas jobs. The range of these factors underscores the difficulty of combatting child marriage amid a pandemic.

According to the United Nations Population Fund’s recently released State of the World Population report, COVID-19 may exacerbate the already concerning numbers around early marriage, violence, and sex ratio at birth. Its recent projections estimate that COVID-19 will disrupt efforts to end child marriage, potentially resulting in an additional 13 million child marriages taking place between 2020 and 2030 that could otherwise have been averted.

 

Notes to the editor

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.

About BRAC USA

Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Media contact

BRAC USA

Sarah Allen
[email protected]

Empowering Digital Health Innovators with Solar: Little Sun partners with BRAC and John Snow R&T Institute, Inc. in Uganda and Ethiopia

The partnership will support state-of-the-art solar-powered phone chargers to strengthen health systems in remote areas

KAMPALA, UGANDA — BRAC Uganda and John Snow R&T Institute, Inc. win the request for proposals by Little Sun, and will receive a total of 648 Little Sun Charges, state-of-the-art solar-powered phone chargers, to strengthen health systems in remote areas without access to electricity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The chargers will be delivered to local teams of Community Health Workers and Technicians in Uganda and Ethiopia.

COVID-19 has brought to light the many challenges confronting health systems around the world. In addition to national limitations in medical equipment and testing capacities, people living in remote areas lack sufficient access to medical care and in Ethiopia alone, 95% of all rural health posts are non-electrified.

Digital Health technologies employing app-based digital tools on smartphones can help overcome these challenges. For successful implementation however, reliable access to electricity is vital.

“Digital health is changing and improving the quality of health provision at the last mile but it can’t work without keeping smartphones charged. We’ve learned from Community Health workers across Africa that a powerful, portable solar phone charger is a game changer. This is why we are very excited to partner with BRAC and JSI to make sure their staff have the access to energy they need to provide their important health care work, especially now during the pandemic,” says Mason Huffine, Little Sun’s Director of Humanitarian Affairs.

BRAC and JSI convinced the team with their program proposals and will each receive 324 Little Sun Charges to equip their frontline health care workers with solar to power their efforts in Uganda and Ethiopia.

“Health extension workers are usually stationed at their health post, and reside in the Kebele [neighborhood] they serve, so that they will be close to the community at all times. But rural Ethiopia has little or no access to electricity and interruptions are frequent. This means our health extension workers sometimes have to travel up to 10 kms to the next urban area just to charge their phones. The portable solar chargers will save them valuable time and energy that can be used to deliver health services to women and children,” says Anteneh Kinfe, eCHIS Team Leader John Snow R&T Institute, Inc.

“The 324 phone chargers will be distributed to a local all-women team of Community Health Workers and Technicians in Northern and Eastern Uganda. They operate in distant and hard to reach places without power. The solar charger from Little Sun is a help-in-time. They provide solar energy and ensure that our community health workers can provide uninterrupted and much needed health services to households at the last mile,” says Dr. George Owuor Matete, Country Director, BRAC Uganda.

The Little Sun Charge combines Digital Health care with reliable solar energy – a promising and sustainable combination that can make a real difference in the provision of health care in everyday life, but especially during the pandemic. The Little Sun Charge was specifically designed with a large solar panel and high capacity battery to power any kind of smartphone.

BRAC operates community health worker (CHW) programs in several countries across Africa and Asia, providing its essential health care model with a focus on maternal and child health, infectious diseases, nutrition, family planning and non-communicable diseases. Since 2007, BRAC has provided healthcare services to 3.2 million people in Uganda with an emphasis on women of reproductive age and children under five. Currently, BRAC manages a robust network of more than 4,000 CHWs in 72 of 125 districts across Uganda.

In 2015, BRAC began working with Living Goods and Medic Mobile to build a custom digital health platform for its CHWs. The platform features patient profiles, task management support, point-of-care decision support, forms-based data collection, and analytics for data-driven performance management. BRAC supervising staff use the collected data to monitor and supervise CHWs more efficiently and have developed a cloud-based IT system to digitize all programmatic operations, administrative tasks, and supply chain management. The app was built using the open source Community Health Toolkit, a global public good being adopted by a growing number of governments and NGOs.

 

Notes to the editor

About Little Sun

Little Sun delivers affordable and renewable energy to those without access to power while mobilizing climate action globally. Founded in 2012 by contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, Little Sun integrates the world of art and design with pragmatic clean energy solutions. The non-profit brings light to the most vulnerable communities worldwide who are off the grid, both in Sub-Saharan Africa and worldwide, focusing on school children, refugees and people affected by natural disaster. Over the past five years, Little Sun has become the light of choice in the humanitarian sector and is actively engaged in supporting Digital Health programs with access to energy. In addition, Little Sun runs various social development projects, livelihoods and entrepreneur programs, educational programs, health system-strengthening programs and productive use of renewable energy projects (PURE).  Learn more at www.littlesun.com.

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.

About BRAC USA

Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Media contact

Little Sun

Rabea Koss & Romane Guégan
[email protected]
+49 30200039141

BRAC USA

Sarah Allen
[email protected]

BRAC addresses devastation from Cyclone Amphan amid COVID-19 in Bangladesh

Response and recovery efforts supported by $300,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

BRAC responds to Cyclone Amphan

DHAKA, BANGLADESH — In the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan, the super cyclonic storm that devastated coastal communities in Bangladesh in late May, BRAC has been carrying out response and recovery efforts, made more complex by the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 200,000 homes reportedly destroyed or damaged, families sought refuge in neighboring homes and shelters, increasing the chance of contracting COVID-19 in the absence of social distancing.

BRAC has quickly started to provide multi-purpose conditional cash support (repairing of houses and latrines, and installation of tippy taps) to 4,600 cyclone-affected households to enable families to return to their own homes in 10 sub-districts in the districts of Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat. The cash assistance of approximately $60 per household is being provided by mobile money transfers in two installments. Training is also being provided to residents to install hand washing stations through demonstration efforts, maintaining social distance, so they can wash their hands safely and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Without access to clean water, it is difficult to maintain basic hygiene practices to prevent contraction of COVID-19 and diarrhea. Awareness messages on basic hygiene practices and COVID-19 infection prevention and control are being disseminated by BRAC staff, who are trained on COVID-19 prevention practices.

BRAC’s emergency response is supported by a $300,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant funded relief and recovery efforts to people suffering the impact of Amphan in Bangladesh.

BRAC’s disaster response efforts in Bangladesh have benefited from funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation several times in the last 13 years, starting with Cyclone Sidr in 2007. Most recently, the foundation provided a grant of $300,000 last year for flood relief.

“BRAC has always looked to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a key partner in our effort to provide life-saving services to the most vulnerable people, especially during humanitarian crises,” said Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC. “This support was no exception. It allowed us to mobilize resources quickly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide much-needed cash support to the families most affected by Cyclone Amphan so they can get back on their feet.”

 

Notes to the editor

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.

About BRAC USA

Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Media contact

BRAC USA

Sarah Allen
[email protected]

BRAC receives $60 million for Audacious plans to lift 21 million people from extreme poverty

As a selected Audacious Project for 2020, BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative will work alongside governments to scale the Graduation approach and help 21 million more people to lift themselves from extreme poverty

Women in a Graduation program

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Today, BRAC was announced as one of this year’s Audacious Project grantees. The Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative, an initiative of BRAC, will receive more than $60 million to apply toward its goal of helping another 21 million people lift themselves from extreme poverty by 2026.

BRAC is the founder and largest scaled implementer of the Ultra-Poor Graduation approach, having reached more than 2 million households in Bangladesh and developed and implemented adaptations of the approach in 14 countries across a range of different contexts.

“The need to combat extreme poverty and drive systemic change has never been more urgent,” said Shameran Abed, Senior Director of BRAC’s Microfinance and Ultra-Poor Graduation programs.

The announcement comes at a critical time when Graduation is needed more than ever. In the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed a light on, and exacerbated, pre-existing, systemic inequalities that permeate societies around the world. The impact of COVID-19 and economic lockdowns to prevent further spread of the virus have created a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions. The pandemic threatens to unravel decades of progress toward poverty alleviation. By the end of 2020, more than 70 million people could slip into extreme poverty.

“We must act swiftly and design programs that meet the increasing and evolving needs of those living in extreme poverty — programs that are comprehensive, adaptive, and immediate but also support long-term needs — to build resilience and support sustainable recovery,” said Abed.

Our Audacious Project will support efforts to scale and implement BRAC’s Graduation approach, a multifaceted intervention that helps the poorest escape extreme poverty and continue to improve their lives years after the program ends.

Through training in life skills, finance, and business skills, along with consumption stipends, an asset transfer, and regular coaching and monitoring, the Graduation approach addresses participants’ complex needs and helps them create sustainable livelihoods to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

But to scale globally, a systems-level approach with governments at the forefront is required.

“Governments have billions of dollars allocated to poverty programs already, but many are not reaching the most marginalized, nor are they fully equipped to integrate Graduation into their systems,” said Abed.

BRAC will leverage $5.8 billion dollars in existing government and donor funding and channel those toward well-executed, government-led Graduation programs in countries in Africa and Asia with the greatest potential for impact and scale — lifting 21 million people out of ultra-poverty by 2026 — and setting millions more on the same path.

“The level of effort, programming, resources, and tenacity required to eradicate extreme poverty vastly exceeds the capabilities of a single organization or the Audacious investment,” said Lindsay Coates, Managing Director of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative. “To truly eliminate poverty in all its forms, BRAC urges governments, multilateral institutions, donors, NGOs, and policymakers to work together more effectively and commit significantly more resources.

“At BRAC, we believe in standing with those most affected by pervasive inequality and most at risk of being left behind. This is an act of justice — not of charity.

 

Notes to the editor

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.

About BRAC USA

Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Media contact

BRAC USA

Sarah Allen
[email protected]

Vulnerable communities in developing countries face immediate threats to food security as COVID-19 pandemic worsens, survey finds

A new rapid assessment finds the vast majority of respondents are already experiencing a loss of income

Farmer in Liberia

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — As COVID-19 reaches developing countries around the world, a rapid needs assessment conducted in response to the pandemic by BRAC, a global development and humanitarian organization, has found that vulnerable communities in eight countries across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are already decreasing the size and frequency of their meals in response to immediate economic hardships. With food insecurity already a looming issue for many of these countries and self-isolation impossible for millions, countries with limited public health infrastructure and fragile social safety systems are poised to be hit hardest.

The assessment found that respondents whose governments have ordered a total lockdown are faring worst of all, with farmers, small business owners, and day-laborers most affected. Coupled with a reported increase in food prices across the board, this led one in four respondents to report they do not expect to be able to cope if the current situation continues. BRAC is already supporting 100,000 low-income families in Bangladesh with emergency food assistance, but the report suggests the need is urgent across developing economies – including in Afghanistan, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda – where social distancing is disrupting lives and livelihoods.

“As we have seen in past outbreaks and disasters, including the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, crises disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable communities, specifically women and girls and people with disabilities,” said Dr. Muhammad Musa, the Executive Director of BRAC International. “COVID-19 is no different. BRAC is committed to standing with these communities as they persevere through the pandemic and its effects. We are eager to work in tandem with national governments, private sector partners, local civil society organizations, and our peer organizations to ensure those facing immediate threats to their food security and economic stability can access the support and services they need.”

BRAC is responding to the COVID-19 crisis across all 11 countries of operation to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, protect vulnerable people from economic shocks, and ensure the long-term health and wellbeing of the communities it serves. Over the last month, BRAC has reached more than 15 million people in Bangladesh with preventative health information and another half a million in 10 additional countries across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

As a grassroots development organization, many BRAC programs rely on group-based community models. While much of this work has been constrained by self-quarantine orders, BRAC is retooling staff to support efforts to raise awareness about COVID-19. These staff have joined existing cadres of thousands of community health workers in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, and Uganda. Together, they are implementing comprehensive health awareness campaigns that educate communities about the virus, combat misinformation, and mitigate social ostracization of the ill.

Increasingly, BRAC is utilizing technology for its ongoing response efforts. It is piloting interactive SMS messaging platforms in several South Asian and sub-Saharan African countries to disseminate COVID-19 messaging and, in Bangladesh, has developed an app that enables field staff and program participants to screen COVID-19 symptoms and provides recommendations and guidance on when to seek care. In many rural areas, however, connectivity remains a barrier to technology-based solutions.

Importantly, the assessment will enable BRAC to develop a real-time understanding of the needs and challenges facing vulnerable communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. It will continue to conduct follow up surveys on a regular basis to generate a longitudinal understanding as the crisis unfolds. As a knowledge leader, BRAC anticipates sharing this data with partners to prioritize providing targeted food security and income support for affected communities in addition to its comprehensive public health programming. It is actively developing new partnerships to tackle this pressing need.

 

Notes to the editor

About the assessment

BRAC carried out a rapid assessment of food and income security in late March to quickly generate information on how COVID-19 is affecting the communities it serves and inform its response. BRAC interviewed approximately 1,000 respondents for the assessment, which included field-level staff and volunteers as well as program participants, through phone interviews that followed a structured questionnaire. Interviews were conducted across eight of the 11 countries where BRAC operates development and humanitarian programs, including Afghanistan, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda. Due to its small sample size, the findings of the assessment should not be considered representative of the entire population of each country.

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. These include initiatives in education, healthcare, microfinance, women and girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, and more. BRAC’s vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. In 2020, BRAC was named the number one NGO in the world by NGO Advisor for the fifth consecutive year. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC currently operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, touching the lives of over 100 million people.

About BRAC USA

Based in New York, BRAC USA is the North American affiliate of BRAC. BRAC USA provides comprehensive support to BRAC around the world by raising awareness about its work to empower people living in poverty and mobilizing resources to support its programs. BRAC USA also works closely with its international counterparts to design and implement cost-effective and evidence-based poverty innovations worldwide. BRAC USA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Media contact

BRAC USA

Sarah Allen
[email protected]