The H&M Foundation is donating $250,000 to cyclone relief efforts following Cyclone Mocha.
The severe cyclone (a category 5 storm equivalent) swept through coastal areas along the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh last Sunday, bringing heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides in coastal and low-lying areas nearby the Myanmar capital of Sittwe.
Recently, the United Nations said 800,000 people are in need of aid with at least 145 people killed by the cyclone, per local estimates. After Cyclone Mocha hit, the Burmese military declared the whole Myanmar state of Rakhine as a natural disaster zone. Refugees, like the Rohingya refugees who fled military persecution in Myanmar, are among the displaced. The cyclone was reported as one of the strongest in the region this century.
As of Friday, the Myanmar Red Cross reported an “urgent” need for shelter, food and drinking water, especially in the Rakhine region. Its water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, unit — in which H&M Foundation funds are directed — helps distribute clean drinking water daily.
Karl-Johan Persson, founder of H&M Group and board member on the H&M Foundation, said in a press statement: “What is happening in Myanmar and Bangladesh is heartbreaking and our thoughts are with the people affected by this terrible cyclone. Humanitarian organizations and local communities are working hard to help those affected and we hope that our donation will support the essential aid relief efforts.”
The foundation said it will use an “integrated approach” spanning access to shelter, health and basic essentials with precedence based on individual need (which may not necessarily be in the garment sector).
Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is a main concern in disaster relief, and it mirrors ongoing efforts in fashion. Though separate from the foundation, H&M Group relies on Bangladesh for a significant portion of its clothing production (second only to China). Alone, Bangladesh accounts for some 227 disclosed facilities while Myanmar accounts for 40 disclosed facilities at H&M Group.
An H&M Foundation rep said there are no updates yet as the donation was just finalized but expects a progress report in a couple of days. A spokesperson for H&M Group said the cyclone did not have a major direct impact on the business but the group remains in close dialogue with its partners.