About Us

 

history

Welcome to DCI’s website! Here you can find out why and how DCI came to be, meet our team members, see where we work, and read frequently asked questions. We also encourage you to review our statement on financial accountability. Most importantly, DCI would like to acknowledge and thank the donors and supporters like you who make our work possible!

Our Story

DCI was founded in 2003 in response to the crisis faced by children in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and many other countries. Over the years we have consistently expanded the scope of our programs as well as our impact, and we remain firmly committed to our mission of creating lasting change for children. We envision a world in which every child has access to the basic life necessities, healthcare, and education they need to achieve a bright future.

The Crisis

In Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a population of 154.7 million. Smaller than the state of Iowa, it is one of the world’s most densely populated countries and also one of the poorest; 49.8% of the population lives below the poverty line and 36% of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Large numbers of this disadvantaged population are children and youth, with 42% under 18 and 11% under 5. The problem of child poverty is exacerbated and reinforced by the sheer number of impoverished people, numerous natural disasters, and lack of infrastructure for the provision of aid.

There are 450,000 children living on the streets in Bangladesh; 75% of them live in the country’s capital, Dhaka. Many of these children are physically and sexually abused. Girls in particular are easy prey for gangs and street brothels. Widening income gaps give rise to the trafficking and commercial exploitation of children while there are no laws governing how wealthy families treat those they hire for domestic work.

Many working children have no access to education, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and trapping them in low-skilled, low-paid work. The primary school dropout rate is 35%, with the need to earn money for their families being the main reason for leaving school prematurely. Nearly 5 million children between the ages of 5 and 15 are employed, many of them with little or no pay. Of the 301 types of occupations children are engaged in, 48 are categorized by the Bangladeshi government as hazardous.

The mission of Distressed Children & Infants International (DCI) focuses on these children—the poorest and the most vulnerable. DCI aims to improve their quality of life via a range of socialprograms. Through its flagship “Sun Child Sponsorship Program“, DCI is working with over 5000 disadvantaged children and their families in the Feni, Sylhet, Nilphamari, Patuakhali, and Dhaka districts of Bangladesh. Our work here is dramatically improving the quality of life of both the disadvantaged children and their destitute families, and ultimately, whole communities.

In Orissa, India

Orissa has a population of approximately 36,707,000. The people of Orissa face a number of problems, including lack of quality education, poverty, unemployment, the criminalization of society, and corruption. Orissa is one of the poorest states in India, with 47.15% of the population living below the poverty line. As a result of this severe poverty, there are about 377,500 children between the ages of 5 and 14 years are involved in work that, under any circumstance, is considered unacceptable for children. Children are bought and sold and are exploited to work as factory laborers, beggars, and domestic workers.

Orissa continues to have the second highest level of under-nutrition among the ten states in India. The prevalence of Chronic Energy Deficiency (CED) in adult men in the state is 38.6% compared to aggregate of 37.4%, whereas the CED prevalence in the adult women is 46% against 39.3% aggregate. Malnutrition is common and contributes to the spread of many life-threatening infectious diseases.

Millions of people in the state (nearly 70 per cent of the rural population and 40 per cent of the urban population) are unable to meet the basic standards of living. Access to healthcare is very limited and food supply is very much dependent on crop performance in an area regularly subject to flooding and droughts. Most people speak only Oriya, the regional language, and often only local dialects. Very few children attend school.

One of the main vectors for breaking the cycle of poverty and dependence in places like Orissa is education. By educating the many small children of the villages and tribes, they can acquire the tools to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

Ensuring basic health care, sanitation and nutritional practices among children are all essential to minimize infant mortality. Childhood blindness is another problem that is preventable and curable if sufficient resources are provided.

In Nepal

Nepal has a population of 30,485,798, a quarter of which lives below the poverty line. Agriculture remains the country’s dominant source of income, with 80% of the population living in rural areas and depending on subsistence farming. In these areas, food insecurity and poor nutrition are major concerns. In addition, rural households have very little or no access to education, primary health care, or sanitation.

In particular, the percentage of people living in poverty increases to 45% in the mid-western region of Nepal, and to 46% in the far-western region, where the terrain is rugged, rain is sparse, and the low-quality soil is difficult to farm. The geography of these regions makes it difficult to stimulate economic activity and deliver basic services. Nepal’s economic growth also continues to be negatively affected by the country’s political uncertainty and concentration of resources in Nepal’s capital city, which marginalizes the areas that need it the most.

Despite these challenges, Nepal has made some important strides in mitigating some of the key causes of chronic poverty in the past decade, especially through programs that increase farm wages, allow for urbanization, and reduce fertility rates. But there is still more work to be done, especially within the health sphere, and the inequalities that plague it. Although women make up over 60% of the agricultural labor force, they often face insufficient calorie intake relative to men in the household, and are the victims of a widening gap between genders in terms of access to health care and nutrition. This has, in turn, led to chronic malnutrition among infants, with a higher infant mortality rate for girls than for boys.

DCI’s Blindness Prevention program, in partnership with Nepal Netra Joyti Sangh, addresses one of the worst consequences of inaccessible health care: blindness. With 90% of the blind living in rural areas, DCI and NNJS are focused on establishing a connection between Nepal’s most isolated, rural population and the developed world to allow indigenous technology to keep up with recent advancements in eye care. In addition, DCI and NNJS aim to provide quality eye care services to all segments of the population without discrimination, and create positive externalities for other, interconnected health, social, and economic issues in the process.

History

Distressed Children & Infants International (DCI) grew out of the vision, life experiences and passion of Dr. Ehsan Hoque, DCI founder and Honorary Executive Director. Growing up in Bangladesh, Dr. Hoque was born nearly blind with congenital cataracts due to vitamin and nutritional deficiency during his mother’s pregnancy. By the age of five he underwent seven eye surgeries which restored part of his vision, saving him from complete blindness. Despite these challenges, Dr. Hoque excelled in academia, and with the support of his parents, he completed his medical degree in Bangladesh in 1987.
Personal struggles with his eyesight gave him a deep understanding of the difficulties faced by the visually impaired and the physically challenged – especially children. In school he began to engage in volunteer work, culminating in creating his own volunteer group in high school, helping the disadvantaged, especially during harsh weather conditions and in the event of natural disasters common during monsoon season. Through his work, Dr. Hoque witnessed the suffering of many poor, undernourished, and, all too often, abused children. As a young physician, he organized a number of programs to help improve the quality of life for the poverty- stricken living in remote areas in Bangladesh. He distributed vitamins and vegetables to expectant mothers, to prevent their children from developing conditions such as those that led to his partial blindness. In 1995, he started supporting education of 50 children who were not able to attend school due to socioeconomic factors, and would be thrust into child labor. Soon he realized there were too many children and families that need help and it’s not possible to arrange a comprehensive support system individually. He was determined to build an organization to help underprivileged children and prevent childhood blindness. In 2003, his dream was realized, while working at Yale University, he founded Distressed Children & Infants International (DCI) with his wife, Dr. Nina Hoque, and his colleague, eye surgeon Dr. Brian DeBroff. Today DCI is a successful non-profit organization that supports thousands of disadvantaged children, their families and communities worldwide. DCI’s motto is “Children Helping Children.” It works to empower local youth to engage in volunteer work, both locally and worldwide.