Published:  12:15 AM, 18 June 2017 Last Update: 12:21 AM, 18 June 2017

A glaring chapter of BRAC-to prevent diarrhea

A glaring chapter of BRAC-to prevent diarrhea Akti Ujjal Adhoai - Diarrhea Protirodhe BRAC by Sukhendra Kumar Sarker, Publisher - Panjeree Publications in 2016

A book of 124 pages published by Panjeree Publications captivates the initial history of a brighter chapter of BRAC which boasts of being the topmost non-governmental organization in the world.

 The writer, Sukhendra Kumar Sarker, has taken the trouble to make that glaring stage of BRAC known to the present staff of this gigantic organization and for those who will be coming to serve here.  The writer feels an urge to let them know how today magnanimous BRAC has originated from a simple but shiny part of its evolution.

Probably it is not beyond our memory that Bangladesh experienced 'rampant expansion of diarrhea' in eighties of the last century. During that period BRAC conducted 'diarrhea prevention program and brought success. Children aged five and less used to meet death because of this life killing disease. BRAC used to visit every household to teach how to make local saline using a morsel of molasses, water and salt.

This program touched every household and ended through a revolutionary shape. 'Such kind of revolutionary step has not appeared for the second time in this soil' as claimed by the author who had been actively involved with the process who started working in the field level as a field officer (Field Motivator-the designation is also different from today's field officers who are known as program organizer) to motivate rural people visiting house to house to participate in development activities. . The writer firmly claims that to raise awareness about the prevention of 'diarrhea' many institutions of the government and non-government level contributed but the pioneering role was played by BRAC.

 This book gives  an insight to the readers the evolutionary folding up of BRAC how it started its initial programs and reached the current stage through many ups and downs, learning, and experiences and shifting of thoughts, models and ideals.

This ongoing process still continues leading its march forward.  In the 1970s, BRA collaborated with icddr,b to devise a rigorously monitored process to teach mothers to make the mixture at home. Starting in 1980, more than 12 million Bangladeshi mothers were taught to make ORS, a program that saved countless lives, according to Cash's book, "A Simple Solution. 'That knowledge took hold: Since 2007, the 2011 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey reports, about 78 percent of children with diarrhea have been treated with ORS, which is readily available at shops and clinics today.

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is an inexpensive, life-saving treatment for dehydration known to many. Wherever access to clean water and sanitation is limited, diarrheal diseases like cholera threaten lives, especially those of babies and young children. ORT, which is essentially a mixture of salt, water, and sugar, has earned the label "a simple solution" because of its basic, inexpensive ingredients and the name of BRAC inseparably goes with endevour. The author tries to unfold the event through his individual experiences.

 In 1978 the founder of BRAC Sir Fazle Hasan Abed one day suddenly asked the writer about the cause of childbirth of Bangladesh who stammered and then followed the thoughts, reasons and future plans of sir Abed to reduce the child mortality. Out of several diseases diarrhea contributed to the prime cause of child death when 199 children died out of every 1000. As per the plan of Sir Abed, his organization introduced 'oral saline' and it caused to bring down childbirth to 144 in 1990. The figure of 2015 shows it   only 38 which makes the author elated to tell us the story of success.  
The analytical discussion to make oral saline and how to teach the conservative women of Sylhet region emerged as a potential challenge how  innovatively BRAC managed the affairs has been detailed in the book which can be a source of informative materials for the researchers and other NGO population.

 The writer did not hesitate to portray the individual experiences and challenges they faced at the initial stages of BRAC really draw our attention. In the last 30 years, oral rehydration solution (ORS) - a blend of salt, sugar, and clean water - has saved an estimated 50 million lives worldwide, especially children at risk of contracting severely dehydrating, fatal diarrhea.

In 1978 the British medical journal The Lancet called ORS potentially the most important medical advance of the 20th century. Diarrheal diseases are one of the world's largest killers of children under age 5.A simple electrolyte blend, ORS was formulated to treat cholera by US and Bengali researchers in the late 1960s at the Pakistan-SEATO, the predecessor to the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b). The American researchers, a group of young doctors, had opted to go overseas as part of a US government program, in lieu of serving in the Vietnam War.

At the time, the United States was more insular, and Third World diseases like diarrhea were not typically discussed in medical schools, said Dr. Richard Cash, one of the researchers. "You think I ever thought about diarrhea other than it messed up one of my vacations?" Cash said in a recent interview in Dhaka. "I was just in the right place at the right time."

So, the eighties of the last century, the author wants to claim a brighter part of BRAC. During this period BRAC gained much confidence, its organizational capacity has increased profusely, identity of BRAC and belief of the government donor agencies has increased manifold because of successfully running its onward march without looking behind at all. BRAC has got expanded and spread beyond the national boundary.

 Taking oral saline has become a part of Bangladeshi culture and the author thinks it a success of BRAC and we smell his emotional touch in these lines.  The outlook of the people about women staff and their working ability has changed. Their working in rural areas has been pioneered by BRAC.

The book describes how women ventured to work in rural areas has become a history facing adverse situation. The writer has poured in his emotional attachment to BRAC and its gradual evolution into the current gigantic stature in terms of its number of staff, coverage, dedication and reputation. The inner urge of the writer to describe the initial stories of BRAC to the BRAC people and others appear in the pages which any reader can sense and smell.


The reviewer is a writer and literary critic. Now works in BRAC Education Program

---Masum Billah

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