The non-profit H&M Foundation has initiated a long-term project to support female garment workers in Bangladesh starting with their urgent needs related to COVID-19.
As a first step, $1.3 million is donated to WaterAid, CARE and Save the Children to provide around 76,000 young women, their families and community members in and around Dhaka with emergency relief, also reaching 1 million people with messages on COVID-19 and hygiene practices. The H&M Foundation also calls on others to show their support.
Carola Tembe, Programme Manager of H&M Foundation, said they will directly support women and their families with cash assistance for food, medication and other necessities. "We hope to see more donors show their support in different ways," she added.
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, which is a huge challenge when trying to contain the impact of a pandemic like coronavirus.
H&M thinks the capacity of the health system is being put to the test and requires considerable external support.
Cecilia Chatterjee-Martinsen, CEO of WaterAid Sweden, said, that together with the H&M Foundation they will address the immediate needs of improved hygiene in the fight against COVID-19, while building towards long term sustainable improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene services.
The initiative includes Save the Children whose efforts will target children of women garments workers affected by COVID-19 securing their child protection and education rights.
“We'll support them with solutions that they can use to ensure their children’s education and protection from violence or abuse. Ultimately helping these children to build a better life,” says Onno van Manen, Country Director of Save the Children in Bangladesh.
In addition to the health impacts of the pandemic, the subsequent lockdown has had devastating economic impact. The emergency relief efforts are carried out from May to December 2020 with the aim of having positive effects well after that.
“We'll provide vulnerable women with subsistence allowance and access to health and gender-based violence support, also reaching thousands of community members. The donation from the H&M Foundation will support women and their communities in this time of great need," says Merlijn van Waas, Head of Sustainable Development, CARE Nederland.