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Brac founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed passes away

  • Published at 09:02 pm December 20th, 2019
web-brac Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
File photo of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

He breathed his last at the age of 83, at the Apollo Hospitals in Dhaka on Friday

Brac founder and Chair Emeritus Sir Fazle Hasan Abed passed away at the Apollo Hospitals in Dhaka, at the age of 83.

He breathed his last at 8:28pm on Friday while undergoing treatment for brain tumour, said a statement issued by Ameerah Haq, chair of Brac Global Board. 

Sir Abed is survived by his wife, a daughter, a son and grandchildren.

His body will be taken to the Army Stadium in Dhaka on Sunday, where the public will be able to pay their last respects from 10:30am to 12:30pm. At 12:30pm, his janaza will be held at the same venue, and then he will be laid to rest at the Banani graveyard in Dhaka, Brac Executive Director Asif Saleh said last night.

“Till the last moment, he thought about people and their welfare,” Saleh, who is also a family member of Sir Abed, said during a press briefing in front of the hospital.

He said Brac would continue its work to uphold Sir Abed’s legacy of helping marginalized people. 

The recently formed Brac Global Board will ensure that Brac has the right strategy, resources and governance to support Sir Abed’s vision, he added.   

Earlier in August this year, Sir Abed retired from the post of chairperson of the governing bodies of Brac Bangladesh and Brac International. He transitioned to the role of chair emeritus, focusing on guiding Brac’s global strategy and governance structure.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have expressed profound shock at the news of Sir Abed’s passing. 

In a message issued from Bangabhaban last night, President Hamid said Sir Abed’s contribution to the socio-economic development of Bangladesh through Brac is unparalleled, and will never be forgotten. 

In her message, Prime Minister Hasina recalled Sir Abed’s campaign for support of Bangladesh’s Liberation War across Europe in 1971, and later on his work to rebuild a war-torn country. 

Both the president and the prime minister offered their condolences to the grieving family. 

A life dedicated to helping people

At the age of 36, Sir Abed founded Brac, originally known as Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee and then Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, in 1972 as a temporary relief organization to help the country recover from the 1970 cyclone that killed about 500,000 people, and aftermath of the Liberation War in 1971. 

Brac has grown into the world's largest non-governmental organization, focused on alleviating poverty and estimated to have helped more than 150 million people out of poverty in Africa and Asia.

Sir Abed served as Brac executive director until 2001. At the age of 65, he retired and was elected as the chairperson of the Brac Bangladesh governing body.

Later, he was also elected as the chairperson of the Brac International Board.

In September this year, he was awarded the prestigious Yidan Prize, the largest international prize in education, for his groundbreaking role in educational development in Bangladesh.

In November, he was honoured with the Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau by The Netherlands for his successful work in alleviating poverty, especially of women and children.

He is the lone Bangladeshi to be honoured with a knighthood by the British Crown. He was knighted in 2010.

He was honoured with numerous national and international awards, including the Outstanding Member of the South Asian Diaspora Award in November, World Food Prize in 2015, Spanish Order of Civil Merit and Leo Tolstoy International Gold Medal in 2014, and WISE Prize for Education in 2011, among others.

After receiving the World Food Prize in Iowa, US, for his outstanding contribution to enhancing the world's production and distribution of food to those most in need, Sir Abed said: “I must acknowledge that the award does not belong to me alone; it is the recognition of Brac's work over the last 43 years in providing pathways out of poverty for millions of people in Bangladesh and other countries in Africa and Asia.”

The world’s largest NGO

Brac started its international operations in 2002, in Afghanistan. At present, it runs operations in 11 countries across Asia and Africa, including Bangladesh. 

The global reach of Brac is unprecedented, with more than 110,000 employees around the world, and a further 150,000 Brac-trained entrepreneurs providing low-cost goods and services – such as seeds, medicine and training – to their rural neighbours. 

Throughout the years, Brac has developed many successful, community-driven programs in its mission to eradicate poverty and extreme poverty in a sustainable way. 

In Bangladesh, Brac-developed agricultural and food security programs (AFSP) have helped over half a million farmers gain access to efficient farming techniques, proven technologies and financial support services.

Through farmers' participation in field demonstrations and training, these programs have helped increase yields through crop intensification, research and development on new seed varieties and provision of quality seeds at fair prices.

In 2001, Brac initiated an agricultural credit program through the northwest crop diversification project. Coordinating all activities on agricultural research, development, agricultural credit and marketing, a new agriculture and food security program (AFSP) was launched in 2009