Rana Plaza's workers, 7 years on
- 57% of Rana Plaza survivors have remained jobless
- 9.10 % have no income due to their physical condition
- 10.5 % said their monthly income is below Tk5,300
- 12.5 % of surviving workers continue to suffer from psychological trauma
- 27.5 % of survivors have fully recovered from the trauma
Some 57 percent survivors of the Rana Plaza tragedy have remained unemployed for the last seven years as most of them have yet to recover from the physical and mental trauma of the factory collapse.
Of the survivors, just 27.5 percent have fully recovered from the trauma of Bangladesh's largest industrial disaster, according to a survey by ActionAid Bangladesh.
The international NGO – working against poverty and injustice worldwide – yesterday unveiled the report at an online media briefing titled "7th Year of the Rana Plaza Tragedy and Covid-19".
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the collapse of Rana Plaza – a nine-storey building that housed five garment factories on Dhaka's outskirts – killed at least 1,132 people and injured more than 2,500 on April 24, 2013.
Among the survivors, around 60 people's limbs were amputated and 200 suffered severe injuries, it added.
The ActionAid survey has shown some 12.5 percent of the surviving workers still suffer from psychological trauma.
Fourteen percent of the injured said their physical condition has deteriorated as they do not have enough money for further treatment and 58.5 percent are relatively stable.
Some 43 percent said they are engaged in work, including self-employment. However, 9.10 percent have no income due to their physical conditions and 10.5 percent said their monthly income is below Tk5,300.
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said the Rana Plaza tragedy was a life-changing challenge. "Their livelihoods have not been ensured even seven years after the collapse."
She said the survey was conducted on 200 survivors over the telephone with a structured questionnaire from February 23 to March 2 this year.
ActionAid Bangladesh conducts such a survey every year to determine the condition of the survivors' physical and mental health as well as of their livelihood conditions, she added.
Kabir urged the government to focus on those survivors and allocate some money for their betterment and treatment.
Dr Hameeda Hossain, chairperson of Ain o Salish Kendra, said after the Rana Plaza collapse, working conditions have improved but not workers' livelihoods.
"We are not able to rest yet as workers' compensation, just Tk2 lakh, is insufficient at this time," she added.
She suggested introducing an insurance scheme, for workers, that would help bear treatment costs if workers are in an accident.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said the novel coronavirus cannot be dealt with by any country alone – especially developing countries. They require international assistance.
"Brands and buyers purchase our products. They must understand the need for workers' safety during and after the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
Moazzem said, "The spirit of shared responsibilities among brands, retailers, and buyers has been questionable since the outbreak of the virus."
Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of ILO Bangladesh, said, "To keep the economy afloat, factory operations must resume, but they might not be able to regain their earlier strength. In this case, workers' safety should be given top priority."
''We have submitted a general occupational safety health guideline on Covid-19 to the Ministry of Health – it has put out a garment sector-specific one,'' he added.
"On the safety side, there is some experience, but they [the ministry] must localise or adapt those guidelines," Tuomo said.
Nazma Akter, president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, said if owners reopen their factories right now, workers will die.
''If workers do not remain alive, how will the industry survive without workers?" she asked.
She also demanded that if a worker is infected with Covid-19 on the job at a factory, entrepreneurs must compensate the individual according to international standards, not as per the local labour law.
Salahuddin Bablu, business editor of SATV also spoke at the event.
The Rana Plaza tragedy killed at least 1,132 people and injured more than 2,500 on April 24, 2013