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Feb 15, 2018

Extracurriculars provide support system for girls

Girls in a BRAC school participate in group work
Girls in a BRAC school participate in group work

Gender disparity is especially striking in Afghanistan’s education system. Afghan boys entering primary school today can expect to complete eight years of primary education, and in many cases, move onto secondary and tertiary education. In contrast, girls can expect to complete only five and a half years of primary education on average before dropping out of school.

And for many girls, education is not an option at all. In Afghanistan, 38% of school age children remain out of school, the majority of whom are girls.

However, thanks to generous supporters, BRAC renewed its girls education project last spring, and as a result, continues to improve the educational outlook for Afghanistan’s most marginalized girls in ten provinces.

We also continue to innovate. In its initial phase, the girls education project emphasized community-based primary education for girls. But as more and more girls graduate from these primary schools, BRAC is now placing an additional emphasis on transitioning these girls into a quality secondary education.

To facilitate gender equity as this level, BRAC will establish and operate hundreds of community-based secondary schools, expanding on its successful model for primary schools.

BRAC also recognizes the importance of skills training for youth, and it will begin to transition  girls into vocational training programs and government secondary schools. In government schools, it is focused on building the capacity of teachers to address educational inequities and support girls with a relevant and quality education.

For girls participating in these varied forms of secondary education, BRAC has also introduced complementary extracurricular activities and mentoring designed to empower girls with the resources and confidence to succeed.

One such example is our Adolescent Reading Centers, which provide a support system and safe space for girls as they transition into secondary school, whether that be at a community-based school, government school, or vocational center.

Adolescent reading centers are more than just a place for adolescent girls to read. They function as safe spaces where girls can socialize with their peers; participate in activities like debate and magazine club; learn income-generating livelihood skills in areas like tailoring, embroidery, and gardening; develop leadership skills; and gain confidence and self-esteem.

To date, more than 2,500 girls regularly meet at 100 adolescent reading centers in Afghanistan. Of this group, nearly half have participated in life skills or livelihood training. And every girl reached by these centers can access this support system to continue learning.

We thank you for your continued support in our quest to provide all Afghan girls with a quality education. Together, we can continue to improve girls chances of completing secondary education programs and reaching their full potential.

Adolescent reading centers provide support system
Adolescent reading centers provide support system

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Feb 15, 2018

BRAC looks to long-term solutions for the Rohingya

The makeshift settlements in Cox
The makeshift settlements in Cox's Bazar

Over 688,000 forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals have arrived in Bangladesh since August 25, when violence accelerated in Myanmar, bringing the total population of Rohingya in Bangladesh to around one million.

The largest concentration of Rohingya people is in the makeshift settlements of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and these people require ongoing humanitarian services to address their basic needs.

Many challenges persist in the camps. The overcrowded, makeshift settlements are vulnerable to disease, fire, landslides, and cyclones. Outbreaks of illnesses like cholera, diphtheria, and diarrheal disease have already claimed lives. Clean water shortages, a lack of proper sanitation facilities, and malnutrition compound these health issues.

Additionally, children urgently need learning opportunities and safeguards for their protection. Women and adolescent girls remain at risk of sexual and gender-based violence in the crowded, fluid context of the camps.

BRAC has one of the largest responses of any organization, and has already reached nearly 600,000 new arrivals in Cox’s Bazar. We are implementing a wide variety of programs to ensure that the critical needs of the population are met and their dignity is protected.

Key achievements to date include:

  • Providing emergency shelter for over 200,000 households.
  • Training community mobilization volunteers to visit nearly 100,000 households and disseminate lifesaving information on water, sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, and protection.
  • Running safe spaces and learning centers for more than 63,000 children.
  • Supplying clean water for more than 430,000 people through 1,500 tube wells.
  • Ensuring access to sanitation for over 560,000 people by installing and desludging latrines.
  • Prioritizing services for women and girls and setting up more than 4,500 gender-specific bathing areas to ensure they can bathe safely.
  • Administering crucial health services to more than 900,000 patients.
  • Educating 130,000 people about diphtheria and vaccinating almost 170,000 children against the disease.
  • Identifying 9,000 pregnant women requiring specialized care and delivering nearly 700 babies.

However, amid this progress, new challenges have arisen.

Within the host and Rohingya communities, there is a desire for self-reliance and community-level interventions. These include attention to governance systems within the camps, as well as efforts to reduce tension between the Rohingya and the host community through positive trade or market interactions and social relationships.

With the crisis now entering its sixth month, the dynamics of the situation have shifted. In addition to responding to the immediate needs of the host community, BRAC is orienting its efforts towards finding long term solutions for the Rohingya and host communities.

Much more work is needed to create a safe, livable environment within the camps and in the surrounding areas, and the crisis will not soon end. Please share our work with others so that we can continue to scale up our response efforts.

For the latest situation report on our work in Cox’s Bazar, please refer to the attached document. Thank you for your continued support.

A BRAC child friendly space in Cox
A BRAC child friendly space in Cox's Bazar

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Feb 15, 2018

Crucial malaria care reaches mothers and children

A mother and her children receive vital healthcare
A mother and her children receive vital healthcare

Of all the public health challenges facing West Africa, malaria may be the most insidious and destructive.

It is  a leading cause of death in the region, with an average of about 150,000 cases of Malaria reported annually in Sierra Leone alone for the past five years.

Malaria disproportionately affects women and children. It causes serious illness in pregnant women and children, who suffer decreased immunity to the disease and, as a result, are twice as likely to contract and die of it. Malaria during pregnancy also causes as many as 10,000 maternal deaths each year and is a leading cause of impaired fetal growth, low birthweight, and infant death in the region.

However, in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, approximately half of all children under five and more than half of pregnant women do not have access to antimalarial drugs.

The issue is exacerbated by cultural practices that further misperceptions about the disease. Many families believe specific food items like oranges and palm oil  cause malaria and depend on traditional remedies for treatment of the disease.

Recognizing that malaria prevention is a critical component of a holistic maternal and child health care program, BRAC includes a focus on empowering communities for a malaria free society. BRAC has established over 660 community health committees and 180 school health clubs that increase awareness on the prevention and treatment of malaria, especially among women, adolescent girls, and children.

These committees and clubs promote three main practices to prevent malaria: sleeping in long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, seeking treatment within 24 hours of infection, and taking additional precautions to prevent malaria in pregnant women.

After joining her school’s health club, Josephine, a student in Sierra Leone, now spreads public health knowledge on these issues in her school, family, and broader community.

“I have used my knowledge to create an impact in the lives of my schoolmates and family members at home. We no longer drink [traditional medicine], and everyone now sleeps in the net every night.”

Another women, Hawa, has also felt the impact of these programs. During her past pregnancies, she did not visit a doctor or hospital; instead, she drank traditional medicines to prevent diseases like malaria. Hawa believes that these choices may have contributed to multiple miscarriages she has endured.

When Hawa was five months pregnant with her youngest child, a neighbor who is part of a local malaria committee paid her a visit. She and her husband asked many questions about the disease, including how to prevent it. That day, they learned that malaria is caused by bites from infected mosquitos, and they also learned how to take precautions to prevent and treat the disease.

Hawa credits that visit from a trusted community member as the reason that both she and her baby survived the pregnancy. She has since joined the local malaria club in her community to learn more and help other women and children seek early medical care.

Together with generous donors like you, BRAC has been able to make a major impact on mothers and children in West Africa. Thank you for your continued support.

Preventative malaria programs encourage bednet use
Preventative malaria programs encourage bednet use

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