Majher Chor : Village Transformation Project
Cylclone Sidr which ripped through the country in November, 2007 left most of the southern part of Bangladesh in a devastated state. Amongst many of the chors, Majher Chor was one of the hardest hit, where 16 feet waves swept the entire village washing away almost all homes and leaving behind no livelihood for the villagers. Following the cyclone, The British Business Group (BBG) decided to undertake a transformation project of Majher Chor which was identified by the Government of Bangladesh. As a key member of BBG the International Contributions Committee of the parent Company GlaxoSmithKline plc contributed 50,000 Pound Sterling (more than 100,000 US Dollars) to the project. Under the project which is named “Majher Chor –Village Transformation Project” initiative to Build Back Better was taken and to do so a baseline study was conducted and an NGO called Friendship was taken as an implementation partner.
The baseline study revealed that Majher Chor, which has a land of about 1000 acres but only 250 acres of land are inhabitable by 164 families. 60% of the population are farmers and 21% fishermen and the village had no electricity and only 1% household had sanitary latrines even before the Sidr. Based on the baseline study and the needs assessment done amongst the villagers the project decided the restoration should include the transformational changes like: replace houses, build cyclone shelter, build a new ghat, replace lost live stocks, clean all the water supplies, raise the embankment and implement extensive reforestation.
The chor now has 164 houses, which were built with innovative design using sand cement hollow bricks and ferro cement sheets. Each house has provision for rainwater harvesting by collecting roof run-off water in 1000 litre plastic tanks. The Majher Chor inhabitants were also provided with each house a solar panel which supplies 40 watts electricity and sanitary latrines. The houses were constructed by the country’s leading builders Mir Akhter Hossain Ltd and Project Builders Ltd. Major infrastructure work was done which includes a new boat ghat with a strickingly designed arch, the raised 3.75 km embankment, sluice culverts to allow the movement of tidal water, reconstruction of the mosque and support to the school with books. The villagers are now economically independent as all the livelihood were restored. 132 families were given replacement livestock including buffaloes and milking cows. 32 fishermen families were given 3 large boats and 8 fishing boats and nets along with fish and fauna. The farmer families were supported with seeds, fertlisers, community owned diesel powered tillers and training on better crop management techniques. Business support were also given to set up a grocery store and pharmacy. The project has transformed the sidr ripped devasted Majher chor to a prosperous self-sustainable majher chor which now has become a model village.
GSK and Save the Children- a new PHASE
To combat diarrhoea and improve the general hygiene and sanitation in the communities, GlaxoSmithKline initiated the Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Education (PHASE) Program in different countries of the world. PHASE was initiated in Bangladesh with Save the Children (USA) in 2005 with a three year long (2005-2008) program in Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria. The two pronged objectives of the PHASE project in Bangladesh was the improved use and behaviour of health, hygiene and nutrition services amongst the enrolled school children of the impact area. With these objectives PHASE worked in 9 unions of Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria in 79 primary schools reaching out to more then 27000 students. The key activities included –
- Developing special PHASE materials and provide training to build teachers’ capacity in School Health and Nutrition (SHN)
- Providing health education to the school children at class rooms through regular sessions
- Providing Iron Supplement & De-Worming at School on a regular basis
- Vision Screening
- Providing First Aid Kits
- Providing provision of safe water and sanitation at school and community
- Activating students brigade for Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) at school and family level.
- Mothers gathering /Courtyard meetings, networking and advocacy to enable BCC at community and family level
After 3 years of the PHASE program now the knowledge level of different hygiene issues like safewater & sanitation, use of tube well water , use of sanitary latrines, handwashing, using slippers etc has gone up to a level of 95% amongst the villagers. The project has been successful in increasing attendance and enrolment in the primary schools, the rates of diarrhoea, anemia and worm load has reduced enormously, personal hygiene habits like washing hands with soap, cutting nails, wearing sandals, brushing teeth, drinking safe water etc has become a regular practice. The impact area inhabitants now have increased access to health
Information, safe water and sanitation. The success of PHASE has inspired the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to adopt the PHASE materials in some of their training sessions and Govt SHP has decided to train the primary school teachers all around the country adopting the PHASE materials.
The Free Primary School
A big number of the inhabitants of the Mega City Dhaka are the poor slum dwellers. The children growing up in these slums grow up without any education and without the knowledge of basic hygiene. In an effort to reach out to these children (though very small in number) GSK Bangladesh is sponsoring a free primary school run by an NGO called Sathee Kalyan Samity, in Rupnagar, Mirpur ( a suburban slum area in Dhaka). school is run by an NGO called Sathee Samaj Kalyan Samity (SSKS). This NGO is run. The school was opened in February 2010 and the sponsorship will cover all operating costs for the school
The school is situated at an alley in the Rupnagar area of Mirpur 11 ½ which is densely populated but the area is not a typical Dhaka slum area it has buildings and electricity. The school is a one storied building with 4 rooms amongst which 3 rooms were classrooms and one office room. The building has proper bathrooms and washbasins for the school children. The classrooms have fans and lights and black boards. The school now has around 80-90 children from the slums who are getting free education.
The children studying there now are in between the age of 5-8. Most of them are very enthusiastic about learning and at present there are 3 teachers who are teaching them. The supervisor of the school is a very experienced NGO school teacher and seemed passionate about the school. The children are also taught basic hygiene in the school. The school now has upto class 1 and is planning to gradually open higher classes till class 5 in the coming years. As the name suggests the school is a free school.