When a pandemic is spreading, how do you communicate with millions of people in living in poverty to help them know what they can do to stay safe. That is the challenge BRAC faced as the first cases of COVID-19 came to Bangladesh. The steps BRAC has taken show the life-saving role a microfinance organization can play by mobilizing its staff to help its clients learn about the virus and know what to do about it.
I spoke with Shams Azad, COO of BRAC, to learn how an organization with more than 7 million clients and 50,000 staff responds to a global crisis.
Step 1 – Keep Staff Healthy
For BRAC to be able to reach its clients, it first needed to make sure that its staff stayed healthy. BRAC’s immediate actions with its staff included:
Step 2 – Stay Close to the Clients
After girding them with knowledge and protective equipment, BRAC sent its team a directive: “Stay close to your clients.” The field staff do this by:
Shams told me that in many cases, the first time people in a village heard about the virus came from BRAC staff. In other cases, BRAC staff needed to counter misinformation that had already spread.
Step 3 – Support the Government to Develop Long Term Responses
BRAC leaders have established a dialog with the government on how to keep people in the villages safe and fed as the duration of the crisis moves from weeks to months. This includes making plans to set up rural testing facilities and isolation units, as well as distribution systems for food and medicine.
You can view my full interview with Shams Azad below. The bandwidth wasn’t great, so there are some frozen moments and extraneous noises.
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