A man who created a Bangladesh-based nonprofit organisation credited with helping more than 150 million people out of poverty has been named the winner of the 2015 World Food Prize.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed created BRAC, originally known as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, as a temporary relief organization to help with recovery from the 1970 typhoon that killed about 500,000 people and the subsequent war fought in 1971 to win independence from Pakistan.
Bangladesh was once listed as the second poorest country in the world.
BRAC has grown into one of the world’s largest nongovernmental organizations focused on alleviating poverty. It is estimated to have helped more than 150 million people out of poverty in Africa and Asia and is expanding efforts to 10 additional countries.
“Poverty is a multidimensional thing. It’s not just lack of income or lack of employment, it’s also lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of opportunity for health care and so on,” Abed, 79, told The Associated Press.
The prize was announced by US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Abed will be awarded the prize at a ceremony in October.
The World Food Prize was created by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food. The foundation that awards the $250,000 prize is based in Iowa.
World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn said the ability of Abed, who was knighted in London in 2010, to successfully transition BRAC it into a global relief organization was the key to his win.
It now has with more than 100,000 employees.
Abed said the initial focus of BRAC was on alleviating high child and infant mortality rates by providing social services including health care. He also saw the need to empower women and get them to see they could also contribute to the national economy, so he helped teach them to farm efficiently and grow surplus crops to sell.
BRAC estimates that more than a billion people live at a poverty level of less than $1.25 a day, but hundreds of millions of others live on less than half that amount and are considered in extreme poverty.
The United Nations Development Program reports Bangladesh has reduced poverty from 56.7 percent in 1991-1992 to 31.5 percent in 2010, the latest year data is available.