BRAC Founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, our dearest Abed bhai (our brother), would have turned 84 today. He may not be with us in person, but his legacy continues to inspire us.
We are living through unprecedented times. The entire world is united in tackling COVID-19, and it is disrupting all of our lives at a scale we have never seen before. Those who were already living in the most vulnerable situations are feeling the effects the hardest. It is in challenging times like these that we remember the vision of Sir Fazle. Abed bhai’s mantra ‘small is beautiful, scale is necessary’ is at the heart of BRAC’s DNA, and it is the compass that guides us through these times.
When diarrhoeal disease was the single biggest killer of children under five years old in Bangladesh, Abed bhai trained women to take oral rehydration solution to every household in Bangladesh. The campaign resulted in a 60% drop in deaths in children younger than five years due to diarrhoea between 1980-2000. His empathy and visionary pragmatism saved an entire generation of Bangladeshi children.
It is this ambitious and clear targeting that we now return to. Our over 100,000 staff, healthcare workers and volunteers have spent the last month visiting households across Bangladesh, raising awareness, delivering life-saving sanitation products and supporting the government to track COVID-19 cases. The same formula of innovation, empathy and effective service delivery at the community level is just as relevant today.
Abed bhai taught us that no problem is insurmountable. He lived his life with the conviction that every person in the world deserved the opportunity to realise their potential. His ability to dream big spurred innovations that will continue to influence individuals and organisations around the world for generations to come.
Abed bhai considered himself a citizen of the world. He often repeated the words, “We must never lose sight of those who need our hands the most”. BRAC played a significant role in rebuilding countries like Afghanistan through its decade-long civil wars, Nepal and Haiti after the earthquakes, and Sri Lanka after the tsunami. We continue our work in 11 countries in Africa and Asia today with the same ethos our founder stood for – to understand different realities, to constantly learn and adapt to respond to changing needs and to stand beside those in the most vulnerable situations.
In Abed bhai’s memory, on his birthday anniversary, we will wake and we will continue to work, with the same courage, empathy and compassion that he instilled in us, and we will continue to strive for a better world.