The physical health condition of Rana Plaza collapse victims is getting worse even after eight years of the incident, with many having to change their profession due to the injuries, a recent study has found.
The collapse of Rana Plaza is the deadliest industrial disaster in Bangladesh that left more than 1,100 people, mostly RMG workers, dead in 2013.
According to a survey conducted by ActionAid Bangladesh among 200 victims, the physical health condition of 14% of the survivors of the collapse is worsening. Among them, 58.5% are more or less stable, and 27.5% are completely stable.
Most of the 14% survivors reported that they are still bearing with headache, pain in hand, and leg and back pain.
The deterioration in their physical condition is forcing them to change their profession.
About 43% survivors are engaged in various types of wage and self-employment, the ActionAid report said.
Due to the deteriorating physical condition, they have to make a living by changing their work from time to time. Some 12% survivors have returned to garments with another 12% involved in tailoring.
Meanwhile, in terms of psychosocial health, a total of 4.5% more survivors have improved compared to last year.
The study data show that 12.5% of the survivors are still in trauma in comparison to 10.5% survivors last year.
Currently, 62% survivors reported they are more or less stable, and 25.5% have recovered fully compared to 21% last year. These findings were disclosed in a virtual dialogue titled "Covid-19: Challenges for the Rana Plaza Tragedy Survivors" on Thursday, organised by ActionAid Bangladesh in memory of the 8th year of Rana Plaza tragedy.
Financial struggle amid Covid-19
On top of the worsening physical condition and slow recovery from trauma, the victims are also struggling financially amid the ongoing pandemic.
In most households, there is only a single earner whose income is reduced due to the outbreak of Covid-19. A total of 37.5% participants said their household income is between Tk5,000 and Tk10,300, while 29.5% have a household income between Tk10,300 and Tk15,300.
Majority of survivors have an average expenditure of over Tk10,000 with major costs incurred for food, followed by house-rent, children's education and treatment.
Besides, many of the survivors have to work in unhygienic and unsafe environments. 33% participants expressed that their factories are not offering guided measurements in rolling out safe health and hygiene at the workplace.
The ActionAid survey report was unveiled recently through a virtual programme, where Shirin Akhter, MP was the chief guest.
Addressing the programme, she said, "We have labor laws in our country. If that law is implemented properly, it is possible to gain some benefits to the workers."
Among others Tuomo Poutiainen, country director, ILO Country Office for Bangladesh; Dr Khondokar Golam Moazzem, research director, Center for Policy Dialogue; Werner Lange, Cluster Coordinator, Textile and Leather, GIZ; Rajekuzzaman Ratan, general secretary, Somajtantrik Sramik Front; Dr Hameeda Hossain, convener, Sramik Nirapotta Forum; and Farah Kabir, country director, ActionAid Bangladesh also spoke on the occasion.
Tuomo Poutiainen stressed the importance of improving security and governance on labour issues.
"This needs institutional change. We have to create a culture of health safety for workers in factories and the government needs to enact legislation to ensure this," he said.
In the meantime, Dr Khondokar Golam Moazzem (CPD) said, "Since the Rana Plaza collapse, there has been no positive change in the victims' lives. Despite some financial assistance, the process of reintegration of injured workers in the formal sector has not been introduced, they have to be brought under reintegration process."
He called for the distribution of free health cards from the Rana Plaza Trust Fund at the upazila level to ensure the medical treatment of the injured workers who have returned to their ancestors' place.
"It is disappointing that Bangladesh has yet to come up with an effective employment scheme although many years of Rana Plaza collapse have past," said Werner Lange.
Dr Hameeda Hossain said legal compensation was not given to the victims in so many years which is still pending in the High Court.
While moderating the virtual dialogue, Farah Kabir said, "Even in eight years, the condition of significant surviving workers is not satisfactory. We have to come out of the colonial mentality and fulfill the just demands of the workers.
"Accidents could happen again at any time like Rana Plaza collapse. That is why everyone should be made aware about insurance schemes, self-development skills or special fund formation and emergency activities."