Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the world’s largest NGO Brac, breathed his last at the age of 83 yesterday evening at the Apollo Hospitals in the capital.
He was undergoing treatment for a malignant brain tumour.
Ameerah Haq, chair, BRAC Global Board, in a statement, said, “Unfaltering dedication, focus and work ethic are what we have always experienced in Sir Fazle, or Abed Bhai, as the BRAC family calls him lovingly. He always put others before himself and let his work speak for itself. Even when BRAC attained its global stature, his concern and focus were on the less fortunate in society and those whose potential needed nurturing. He embodied the highest level of integrity, humility and humanity, which continues to be the essential guiding spirit of BRAC.”
Sir Fazle Abed’s first foray into philanthropy came much before the formation of Brac, the non-government organisation he has become synonymous with. Working for the Shell Oil Company in Dhaka in 1970, Abed witnessed first-hand the devastating cyclone which hit the country, leaving 300,000 dead in its wake.
The disaster had a profound effect on him.
Together with friends, Sir Abed created HELP, an organisation that provided relief and rehabilitation to the worst of those affected in the island of Manpura, which had lost three-quarters of its population to the calamity.
The cyclone was followed by another bloody period in the country’s history as the Liberation War broke out a year later. The ravages of the war, coupled with Bangladesh having to take in millions of refugees, began to stretch already scarce resources.
This prompted Sir Abed to initiate Action Bangladesh and HELP Bangladesh, which lobbied the governments of Europe for his country’s independence.
At the time, Sir Abed was in London, where he was working as an accountant.
By 1972, however, Sir Abed knew he could no longer stay away from his war-torn home. He quit his plush job, sold his London apartment, and decided to spend all his savings to rebuild lives back home.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed had found his calling.
The Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee, as Brac was then called, took the first step of its thousand-mile journey from a humble office at Sullah, a hamlet of Sunamganj, in that very same year.
The initiative caught the attention of major NGOs and Sir Abed’s Brac soon secured funds from development agencies.
The NGO continues to grow and innovate even today, as it is heavily invested in yet another humanitarian crisis in Cox’s Bazar where it is working to help the Rohingya refugees.