Webinar: Food and income security amid COVID-19 — what is the data telling us?

A set of rapid assessments on food and income security across ten countries reveals striking patterns

BRAC has conducted four rapid assessments on food and income security across ten countries in Africa and Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic. This webinar dives into the findings and shares how we can apply the learnings to enable the most vulnerable to recover from the impacts of the pandemic. The webinar features key BRAC leadership and staff; including Sajedul Hasan, Director of Humanitarian Programs; Ruth Okowa, Africa Regional Director; Kazi Eliza Islam, Associate Director of Monitoring and Program Quality; and Dr. Munshi Sulaiman, Africa Regional Research Lead.

Video: Evans learns through play

Discover how play is changing Evans’ life in Uganda.

Each day, thousands of children attend BRAC’s network of Play Labs across Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Uganda. Our flagship play-based approach to early childhood education helps children build better futures at a critical time in their development. Through play, learners develop creative and social skills, build self-confidence, and cultivate resilience. Meet Evans and see how play is helping him build a brighter future.

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]

Video: Birungi learns to spread her wings and fly

Discover how play is changing Birungi’s life in Uganda.

Each day, thousands of children attend BRAC’s network of Play Labs across Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Uganda. Our flagship play-based approach to early childhood education helps children build better futures at a critical time in their development. Through play, learners develop creative and social skills, build self-confidence, and cultivate resilience. Meet Birungi and see how play is helping her build a brighter future.

Learning in a pandemic: 4 tips for parents and caregivers with young children at home

As more than a billion students around the world put their schooling on pause, families are doing more than ever to bring learning home.

Play lab leader and children in Tanzania

BY SARAH ALLEN, MIA PEREZ, AND ROSA TAYLOR

 

According to UNESCO, more than 90 percent of the world’s learners have been impacted by school closures during the coronavirus pandemic. As more than a billion children around the world are forced to put their schooling on pause, parents and caregivers are left in challenging situations, often balancing work with child care or home schooling to keep their children from falling behind.

Since 2016, BRAC Play Labs have offered quality, affordable play-based learning for children, ages three to five, in underserved communities. Play Labs deliver education through a community-based model and engage caregivers in their children’s learning beyond the classroom. Here are four tips from our Play Labs to help your family bring playful learning home.

 

 

1. Create spaces that facilitate learning

Learning environments are a crucial factor in learning. Play Labs are designed to encourage play and facilitate learning, incorporating child-friendly elements such as windows that are low to the ground and zones for different types of play, such as make-believe, music, art, and reading.

While this works for Play Labs, caregivers who are bringing learning home do not need to designate a separate room or special furniture for learning. Instead, consider creating learning spaces from regular home settings, such as a corner of a common room or an outdoor space. Try identifying areas that can be used for different purposes, such as a table for arts and crafts or a corner with floor space for play with toys. Creativity and imagination help create safe and engaging learning environments.

 

 

2. Use everyday items as low-cost learning materials

Play Labs are unique for their low-cost and sustainable learning materials. Parents and caregivers meet on a quarterly basis to decorate learning spaces and create contextually appropriate toys with locally sourced materials. For example, families in East Africa use banana leaves to create dolls, jump ropes, and balls, and in Bangladesh, families use clay to create produce for a make-believe market.

For young children transitioning to at-home learning, everyday items can be engaging play materials. Household staples like flour; dry rice, beans, or pasta; and shaving cream can be used for sensory play. Kitchen items such as pots and pans, utensils, and plastic containers can become musical instruments or building blocks and facilitate pretend play. Outdoor objects like rocks, leaves, or flowers can be used for art, science, or counting and sorting.

 

 

3. Harness play for learning and resilience

Emerging research indicates that play can promote resilience and establish a sense of normalcy for children in crisis settings. To support children, Play Labs favor playful and participatory activities over rote learning, and caregivers are encouraged to play with their children at home to support social, cognitive, and language development.

While many children have had their routines interrupted, play can help them build a new sense of normalcy. Rather than focusing on teacher or parent-led activities, caregivers can incorporate spontaneous, voluntary activities at home. Block out time for free play and follow your child’s lead. You can also incorporate playful learning into everyday activities. For example, use cooking or baking to explore numeracy skills, or practice colors and sorting while doing laundry.

 

 

4. Prioritize your mental wellbeing

A caregiver’s mental wellbeing can have a big impact on their child. In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where we have adapted our Play Lab model to support children affected by the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, psychosocial support is integral. BRAC trains teachers to recognize signs of psychological distress in both children and caregivers. When necessary, the teachers refer family members for specialized support.

With major shifts in child care, employment, health, and daily life, many caregivers are facing exceptional stress. It’s important to learn to recognize and respond to stress and anxiety in our children, but also in ourselves. Mitigating your own stress using common approaches like meditation, exercise, and journaling can help you better support your child. If you need additional support, consider options like tele-counseling. This is a challenging, destabilizing time, but virtual resources are more accessible than ever.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the families we serve, BRAC is committed to protecting and engaging children and caregivers. We have paused in-person learning to ensure participant safety, and are working to adapt our education services and launch remote resources to support learning at home. Our priority is to ensure children and families keep healthy, stay connected, and continue learning throughout the pandemic.

Learn how you can support families affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Sarah Allen is Communications Officer, Mia Perez is a Program Associate for Education and Youth, and Rosa Taylor is a Program Officer for Education at BRAC USA.

Video: The power of play

Discover how play is changing lives in Tanzania and Uganda

Each day, thousands of children attend BRAC’s network of Play Labs across Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Uganda. Our flagship play-based approach to early childhood education helps children build better futures at a critical time in their development. Through play, learners develop creative and social skills, build self-confidence, and cultivate resilience. Discover the power of play in Tanzania and Uganda.

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]

Video: Mary’s magic potatoes

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes help fight malnutrition in Uganda

With one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, Uganda needs solutions like healthy, affordable food. Enter the orange-fleshed sweet potato, fortified with Vitamin A to reduce micronutrient deficiencies in children. BRAC is helping local farmers cultivate the potatoes and educating mothers about their health benefits.

Video: Noeline’s journey

Noeline empowers girls in her community

Around the world, adolescent girls are one of the most vulnerable groups. In Uganda, high teenage pregnancy rates and few employment opportunities limit opportunities for young people who can’t afford to finish school. Discover how BRAC’s flagship girls empowerment program has created new opportunities for Noeline.

Video: Saving lives at the last mile

Discover how Ruth is saving lives in her community

BRAC’s community health worker program is among the largest in Uganda. BRAC trains women to provide basic care to pregnant mothers and children in their community and refer patients to nearby clinics for further care. With a focus on mothers and children under five, community health workers save lives and reach families in remote communities that otherwise would not have access to critical care.