Thousands of poor families in northern Bangladesh have seen a dramatic increase in their incomes, thanks to an Islamic Relief project.

According to recent independent research, the scheme drove an increase of 554 per cent in the average monthly income for 10,000 poor families. The research, commissioned by the EC – which funded the project – evaluated impact upon target communities in three Rangpur sub-districts.

Completed in September 2012, the HELP UP scheme was designed to boost income generation and create sustainable livelihoods as part of a broader EU initiative.

Increasing sustainable incomes

In 2009, the average monthly income was just BDT 1,109 (GBP £8.65). By 2012, this had shot up to BDT 7,149 (GBP £55.80) – with families earning a reliable living from small enterprises such as livestock-rearing. Every household benefitted from two or more options for generating an income, further strengthening the sustainability of their incomes.

The research also underlined success in including families where women are the main breadwinner. Typically excluded from mainstream opportunities, women enrolled on the scheme were involved in decision-making and provided with the technical training required to set up small businesses.

Improved nutrition, health and education

In addition, significant improvements in food-security were noted, with each household now able to provide three nutritious meals a day to each family member. Health outcomes improved, as better access to safe drinking water promoted health and hygiene practices. The school dropout rate also reduced, with more children receiving an education than before. One hundred per cent of girls are now attending school.

Improving the ability of poor families to earn a decent living is a core component of Islamic Relief’s development strategy in Bangladesh. The organisation – which has been working in the country since 1991 – also delivers vital programmes on health and nutrition, orphan sponsorship, and disaster-risk-reduction.