2004's gates foundation prize for health awarded to fazle abed
gates foundation prize for health awarded to sir fazle abed
note from retired civil servant published in bangladesh daily star feb 2005=Azizul Jalil, a former civil servant and a retired World Bank staff member
I met Abed similarly at a reception in late December last year and had the opportunity to get a fuller picture of BRAC's programme and future plans. As students we sometimes used to meet in 1953 in Maghbazar where we both were living at the time. Abed and I used to have optimistic discussions on our ideals and ambitions during many evenings. Today about half-a-century later, I would have to say that among the three of us, at least Abed has been able to fulfill our youthful dreams of making a real difference in the lives of our people.
I also enquired from Abed what was the latest brain wave and what he was doing about it. He had a quick response and this related to Tuberculosis (TB). The plan was to encourage volunteers at the village level to watch who was coughing for more than five days. The volunteers, who have been supplied with collection kits, would then collect a sample of the person's phlegm. Staff on motor cycles from BRAC's rural clinics would regularly collect these samples and conduct tests. If anyone is detected with TB, medicines would be freely supplied by BRAC for about nine months and the person would hopefully be cured. The incentive for the village level volunteers was that for each successful detection of a TB case, the volunteer concerned would get a reward of 500 taka.
I mentioned that two old friends of mine had set up trusts for charitable works in Bangladesh, each one currently having assets of about 40 crore taka. When I naively asked Abed if BRAC's assets would amount to 400 crores or more, he smiled and told me in fact it was 2000 crores and that BRAC's annual expenditure amounted to 1600 crore taka. Even though it is the world's largest NGO, and receives considerable foreign assistance every year, for a Bangladeshi non-governmental agency, these are astounding amounts of investments for rural development. I learnt that the World Bank's president, Wolfenson had recently remarked to Abed that the latter presides over a bigger organisation than the World Bank in terms of staff size. It is quite true.
Last December, in recognition of his contributions to human development in Bangladesh, Abed received a prestigious UNDP award as the second recipient. The first recipient of this biennial prize in 2002 was the former president of Brazil, Fernando Cordoso. He also received the Gates prize last year for successful efforts to improve public health in the developing countries. I asked Abed what he intended to do with the proceeds of the award (equivalent to about five crore taka). He plans to set up a first class medical and public health college to produce fine doctors to obviate the necessity of Bangladeshis to go abroad for treatment on the flimsiest of grounds.