Hilton Humanitarian Prize Of $1.5 Million Goes To Bangladeshi NGO

17 October 2008

The world's biggest humanitarian prize has been awarded to BRAC, the largest non-profit organization in the developing world. The 2008 Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million honors BRAC, a Bangladeshi-based NGO, for its achievements in helping to eradicate poverty in nine Asian and African countries. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva where the award was announced.  

Founder of BRAC, Fazle Hasan Abed, said he is particularly honored to receive the Hilton Humanitarian Prize on the International Day to Eradicate Poverty, a day to remember the billions of people living in extreme poverty. He said he and his organization have worked for 36 years for the alleviation of poverty.

He said BRAC, which was launched in Bangladesh in 1972, now reaches more than 110 million people in nine Asian and African countries with its holistic approach toward development.

He said BRAC will use the $1.5 million prize money to help poor people in southern Sudan.

"After 20 years of conflict in southern Sudan, the Sudanese peace, fragile peace is still holding and people have come back to their villages," he said. "We are now trying to organize them in providing them health care and education and micro-finance, particularly poor people having no access to education or health care. We are trying to provide that."  

Princess Salimah Aga Khan.  19 Mar, 2005 file photo
Princess Salimah Aga Khan. 19 Mar, 2005 file photo
BRAC won out over more than 225 nominees. A member of the prominent panel of international jurors, Princess Salimah Aga Khan, said it was a challenge to select an organization that has accomplished something unique in the humanitarian field.

"BRAC filled so many areas of excellence. It would be hard to find another organization that has accomplished so much, in so many areas," she said. "Literally millions, 110 million people have been helped out of poverty. I, and the other jurors, were especially moved by the organization's emphasis on women. BRAC sees women as change agents, not for their families, but for their communities as a whole."  

Today, BRAC's programs reach three quarters of Bangladesh's population of 153 million people through the efforts of more than 110,000 micro-finance officers, teachers, health staff and enterprise managers.

In recent years, BRAC has expanded its programs globally and now has operations in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, southern Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone.