Sep. 25, 2013 at 6:13 PM ET
Fewer Syrian refugees will be cold and hungry this fall thanks to a significant donation from the Japanese clothing company UNIQLO.
Fast Retailing Co., which owns UNIQLO, announced that it donated $1 million to the relief effort that serves millions of displaced Syrians and refugees. The donation will help pay for shelter, sanitation, water and health care, among other expenses.
The company also promised to do something that it’s uniquely qualified to do: provide UNICEF with 100,000 items of down and cold-weather clothing for children between the ages of 3 and 18. Valued at $1 million, the clothing is seen as a real boon since more than half of the refugees are younger than 17.
"UNIQLO's contribution shows that there is an imperative to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in and around Syria — not just by governments and aid agencies, but also by the corporate world," Daniel Endres, director of external relations for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement.
The UNHCR said UNIQLO’s $1 million cash donation marks the first significant corporate contribution it’s received since the civil war began forcing Syrians to uproot their families in 2011. The company, which regularly donates clothing to refugees and natural-disaster survivors in places like Bangladesh, Kenya, Ethiopia, Liberia, Serbia and beyond, previously gave more than 220,000 pieces of clothing to Syrian refugees.
The gifts come at a critical time: As the number of refugees increases and winter looms, aid workers are increasingly worried that there won’t be enough resources to clothe, feed and house the 4 million people displaced within Syria and the 2 million refugees who have fled the country. Most refugees who arrive in Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt have little more with them than the clothes they’re wearing.
“We are especially sensitive to the needs of refugees who need the most basic supplies to keep them warm and comfortable,” Larry Meyer, chief operating officer of UNIQLO USA, told TODAY.com.
In August, the UNHCR sent 33 trucks packed with essentials, including blankets for 100,000 people and 27,000 kitchen sets, from Dubai to the Syrian border. The caravan was the U.N. agency’s largest shipment of relief items for Syrians who have been displaced by the fighting.
The UNHCR has asked for more than $4 billion in aid to assist Syrian refugees, but has received less than half of that amount.
In his statement, Endres encouraged other companies to make similar gestures. "UNHCR appeals to other leading corporations to follow UNIQLO's lead,” he said. “Their help could make a life-saving difference to displaced families and others in great need."
Companies and individuals who want to donate to Syrian relief effort may do so at UNHCR.org.