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BRUSSELS – The European Union has created a €5m emergency cash fund to assist thousands of garment workers in Myanmar who lost their jobs due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The Myan Ku (‘Quick Assistance’) Fund is an emergency cash fund that will disburse cash transfers directly to workers to help them through the crisis

In Myanmar’s key garment, textiles and footwear sector, lower demand and suspended orders have resulted in dozens of factories closing and laying off thousands of – predominantly female – workers. Over 25,000 workers from more than 40 factories had lost their jobs by the end of March 2020. In the current circumstance, out of 700,000 workers in the apparel industry an estimated 350,000 are at risk of either being suspended without pay or losing their jobs permanently.

The Myan Ku Fund will offer three different kinds of support. Monthly cash transfers for one to three months for to up to 80,000 workers who lost their jobs or face eviction from their homes; cash transfers for workers whose contracts were illegally terminated; and cash transfers to workers in Small and Medium Enterprises that agree to retain workers and continue cash or in kind payments (accommodation, meals etc).

SMART Textiles and Garments is the EU’s longstanding flagship programme aimed at assisting garment manufacturers in Myanmar in improving production standards and social and environmental corporate responsibility, and it will manage the Myan Ku Fund. SMART will work in close cooperation with local civil society organisations and trade unions in selecting recipients, and coordinate with its network of manufacturers and their associations, brands, and government partners.

Garment exports to the European Union have been an major success story, with Myanmar selling 70 per cent of its garment exports to Europe, creating 450,000 new jobs mainly for young women from all across Myanmar.

The Myan Ku rapid response emergency fund will initially be available from April to December 2020 and is financed through the EU’s Humanitarian Development Peace Nexus Response Mechanism (NRM) managed by UNOPS.

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