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June 20, 2020

Celebrating World Refugee Day

BRAC believes that every person has what it takes to build a better life for themselves and others. With dedication and commitment to do well by themselves and others, people’s strength will always prevail, no matter the extent of adversity. Today, we are sharing three such stories of compassion and perseverance.

“Only prevention can protect my community from this disease.

I am ensuring my family, neighbours, and everyone else in the camps knows about COVID-19.

We have been having one-on-one conversations about social distancing and hygiene measures and holding demonstrations. They have been demonstrating, perfectly, afterwards.”

Din Islam is …

June 19, 2020

This #WorldRefugeeDay, meet your mask-maker

COVID-19 is changing our world in almost every way. One of the most visible ones is the wearing of masks.

Face masks are here to stay, and, as the outbreak expands and then possibly recurs, the demand for them will continue to rise.

To meet the demand of masks in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, a project was initiated in the Rohingya camps. There, Sayeka Ali* is one of 127 women who has been sewing together hundreds of these life-saving items.

Read more: Celebrating World Refugee Day 

Sayeka learned to sew after joining the Multipurpose Women’s Centre in January last year. …

June 19, 2020

Using the Graduation approach to uplift refugees in a changing world: An Interview with UNHCR’s Ziad Ayoubi

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently over 79.5 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes. This includes 25.9 million refugees, with those under 18 years old making up half of this number. Not since the Second World War have so many people left their homes, and on this year’s World Refugee Day, the current pandemic crisis has exposed major issues within existing systems and development programming, and forced us to reconsider how to serve those most in need and often left behind.

BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation …

June 12, 2020

COVID-19: Update from Asif Saleh (12 June 2020)

Dear colleagues, partners and friends,

Bangladesh reopens, but is preparing to close again, partially. A budget speech admitted the ground realities but did not reflect it in the numbers and its ambitions. Bangladesh is starting to attract international headlines as a global emerging hotspot.

Bangladesh’s halting progress towards a new normal

It has been almost two weeks since my last post. Since then a number of very positive policy reforms have emerged but they continue to be one step behind from what is happening on the ground. First, the good news:

  • Going outside without wearing masks is now illegal
June 7, 2020

BRAC’s lessons from Ebola for COVID-19: Opt for safe not sorry, supercharge communication, focus on clients and look for opportunities

As the world finds itself in uncharted territory struggling to combat the rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic, BRAC’s work in Africa during the Ebola crisis can offer valuable lessons for responding to public health crises in low-income countries.

When Ebola hit Liberia in early 2014, Sadhan Chandra Dey was a managing director at BRAC in Liberia.

BRAC’s operations slowed down rapidly when the virus hit, eventually suspending altogether in August, when the country went into lockdown.

When the crisis was over, BRAC’s operations and clients came back strong. How did the team cope with – and recover from – Ebola? …

June 5, 2020

World Environment Day 2020: Time to look at how we will recover better

Bangladesh topped the list of the world’s most polluted countries in 2019, with an air quality index of 83.3. Our nearest contender was Pakistan at 65.81. India was 58.08 and China came in at 39.12. During the lockdown, particularly in the beginning, positive changes were noted in the environment. Air quality in the capital fluctuated from unhealthy to moderate, rather than consistently being unhealthy. TV reports showed dolphins swimming around the Cox’s Bazar seashore, and, in Patuakhali, large numbers of nomadic crabs could be seen traversing the Kuakata beach because of the absence of tourists.

In parallel, …

May 31, 2020

COVID-19: Update from Asif Saleh (30 May 2020)

Dear colleagues, partners and friends,

A unique dichotomy is in place as we speak.

The middle-class urbanites, on one hand, are hunkering down and getting ready with preparation for at-home care and what is to come during the next few weeks. On the other hand, people from low-income groups who are worried about their livelihoods are returning to Dhaka, leaving their futures to their fate.

Photo courtesy:

Image courtesy:

The lockdown – which bought us some time to plan for things – is ending, and will be replaced by limited scale general activities with certain restrictions from 31 May – 15 …

May 27, 2020

Lockdown in Bangladesh sees violence against women rise: The double challenge of accessing justice during a pandemic

Amena Khatun* and her husband Ismail Hossain* experienced an extreme food crisis during lockdown in Barguna district, in southern Bangladesh. They had no work and no savings. Almost at the point of starving, Amena’s father took Amena to see their local Union Parishad (UP) member, hoping to access food relief.

On 6 April, the local UP member assured Amena that government relief would be provided if Amena went to his house with a national identity card in the afternoon of 8 April.

Amena went to the house at the specified time, and quickly realised that he had called her …

May 23, 2020

COVID-19: Update from Asif Saleh (23 May 2020)

Dear colleagues, partners and friends,

Eid is usually the most festive day of the year for many Bangladeshis – a time to reflect, express gratitude and spend time with family and loved ones.

Unfortunately, many will struggle to celebrate this Eid.

While COVID-19 continues to spread, and millions across the country struggle to feed their families because of the continued economic lockdowns, the strongest cyclonic storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal hit the coastal regions of Bangladesh. Bangladesh did extremely well to save lives amid all the chaos of COVID- 19, but the damage in the coastal

May 21, 2020

The Khichuri Index: Measuring the economic stress level in Bangladesh

The ‘Khichuri Index’ reflects the weighted average cost of a bowl of khichuri— a popular all-day meal in most Bangladeshi homes. This index is similar to the Financial Times’ ‘Breakfast Index’, which is constructed by using the weighted average of the cost of a ‘continental breakfast’. In Bangladesh, the idea was first floated on this blog.

A portion of the index’s Khichuri can feed a family of 4-5 people, and contains a kilogram of rice, 500g lentils, 150g onion, 10g salt, 40mL soybean oil, 10g green chilli and two eggs. A portion of egg khichuri also …

May 20, 2020

COVID-19: The communication crisis

Misinformation and rumours surrounding COVID-19 has been one of the greatest challenges in fighting the pandemic. Safety guidelines were developed to inform citizens, but how effectively have they been communicated? A rapid qualitative research looked into how people in certain target groups in Bangladesh have understood and implemented these guidelines in their daily lives.

The research was conducted by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, in partnership with researchers from the University of Sussex, and University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. A total of 82 respondents were included in the research, and findings were based on in-depth telephonic interviews, netnography …

May 20, 2020

What does Nurjahan need?

Nurjahan* is my household care worker. She is a can-do person. Not only does she cook and clean, but she does groceries when needed, waters my plants, feeds my cat and gives me immense mental support. 

She has been on leave after the lockdown began in Bangladesh. She called me almost every day to know how I am doing, and shared her situation as well.

Her daughters live in the village with her mother, and she and her husband live in a bedroom in a slum. She works in three homes and her husband is a rickshaw puller. Her