Helping Women in Bangladesh and Beyond
By SUSAN DAVIS, CEO, BRAC USA
You may not have heard about BRAC. As a development success story, it's one of the world's best-kept secrets: Founded 40 years ago in Bangladesh by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, we're the world's largest antipoverty nonprofit, reaching an astounding 138 million people with programs in microfinance, health care, girls' education and other fields in 10 countries.
We're also a pioneer in the field of maternal health - and we believe it's time to put an end to preventable deaths during childbirth. We salute the Million Moms Challenge and we're proud to be a part of this campaign to do so.
BRAC has figured out a way to prevent the leading causes of death during childbirth. The solutions aren't particular high-tech or don't often require advanced medical degrees. They only require that we work directly with the poor, within their communities, and trust them to do the things that are needed, with a small amount of proper training, to take care of their neighbors.
Just a few years ago, for instance, home births in unsanitary conditions were the norm in the slums of Bangladesh. In the areas in which we work, we've managed to reduce the percentage of home births from 86 percent to 25 percent over the course of just three years. We did this by setting up "birthing huts" in the slums themselves - places with a sterilized mattress, a trained midwife and a low-cost birthing kit. And we trained an army of 80,000 poor women to delivery low-cost medical services to their own villages and slums, while allowing these women to earn extra income doing so. We've started providing them with mobile phones, with simple applications that help them keep accurate patient records - and allowing them to call a doctor when complications arise.
Formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC has been called not only the largest but also the most efficient non-governmental organization in the world. Our maternal, neo-natal and child health programs have reached 24.5 million people - about the population of the state of Texas. We're making a real difference, and we believe we can multiply these numbers by spreading the BRAC approach worldwide.
Things are changing. We invite you to help us spread the good news with the Million Moms Challenge.