Charitable foundation BRAC USA has set up a new fund to aid and support workers in the Bangladeshi ready made garment industry.

The organisation, formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, said the new Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund would focus on three areas: supporting the Rana Plaza Donors Trust fund; offering counselling and rehabilitation to garment workers; and setting up a reserve to offer a “social safety net” for workers affected by other disasters, such as the Tazreen Fashions fire.

“Bangladesh has seen significant gains in living standards, halving poverty rates in the last 20 years, thanks largely to women’s empowerment. The garment industry has played a tremendous role in this,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC USA founder and chairperson.

“But these gains will mean little if we allow tragedies like Rana Plaza to continue. The words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ should be a mark of pride, not shame.”

The fund’s first major grant of US$2.2m has been used as a donation to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund to support victims and families.

Funds raised so far amount to more than $5m, including support from Walmart, Asda, Walmart Foundation, The Children’s Place and The Gap Foundation.