Our thoughts are with all affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We wish all of you health, all those directly affected by the virus a speedy recovery, and are deeply inspired by the global response. It is an uncertain time with the health and livelihood of millions at stake. In addition to the direct effects of the virus, there are potentially dire economic, education and health implications for the students and communities which we serve, including necessary large-scale school closures.
In light of this, we aim to do our part. In the short-term until schools re-open, we will provide remote services to students, including text-message based learning and phone calls to students and families. It will be hard to provide the full breadth of our programming. In the communities in which we work, internet and digital capabilities are scarce. However, we have acted swiftly to collect phone numbers and ideate remote education and health services. We also plan to collect phone-based data to assess whether our efforts have made a difference during this time of crisis, minimizing the education and health fallouts of the pandemic.
We have already reached over 5,700 students with our programs since the start of 2020. We hope these efforts help mitigate the effects of the pandemic. A study in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis showed increases in out-of-wedlock pregnancy and school dropout. A safe space intervention by BRAC provided protective effects, mitigating nearly all of these effects. In this spirit, our adolescent school health program in the last few months halved the likelihood girls spend time with older men and reduced risky behaviors with older men by over 80%. During crises and school closures, research shows that learning stagnates and falls. Our education program has provided a large learning boost, reducing innumeracy from 30% to 6% across 4 out of 10 regions in Botswana just before the crisis broke out. We hope both of these early efforts in 2020 help mitigate the health and education effects of the pandemic, and plan to actively engage with our beneficiaries remotely through the coming school-closure period.
By engaging remotely in the short-term, this will also enable us to reboot in full force in the long-term as the pandemic subsides and schools reopen, by maintaining links and trust with our beneficiaries, and maintaining a robust and engaged workforce across the country.
In addition, we have applied a suite of safety measures. The health and safety of our team and the communities we serve is always our first priority. Measures we have adopted include travel restrictions, robust hygiene, remote work provisions and support, and emergency sick leave. We are confident our organizational culture, which centers on commitment, trust, creativity, and resilience, will enable us to manage this period as effectively as possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting everyone. As the situation continues to unfold, we wanted to update you on how we’re supporting our team, community and beneficiaries. Please let us know if there is any way in which we can best support you during this time. Thank you for your support now and into the future.
We’re in this together