Bangladesh: Rana Plaza building collapse - One year later

On the 24th of April 2013 the Rana Plaza, a nine-storied building comprising several garment manufactories on the outskirts of Dhaka, collapsed, killing more than 1.100 people who had been ordered back to work even though huge cracks were discovered in the building’s walls.

Accidents relating to poor safety measures often resulting from low quality construction work are an unfortunate but common reality in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza catastrophe, however, was the worst industrial accident in the country’s history. As investigations following the accident concluded, the collapse of the building, which opened its doors only in 2008, happened as a direct result of its poor, cheap and hasty construction. It was built on swampy grounds, the intermediate ceilings were too thin to bear the weight of hundreds of electrical sewing machines and too much low quality grid was added to the concrete in general.

Most of the about 3.500 people working for the garment manufactories located on the upper floors of Rana Plaza were young women, who tried to make a minimum living for their families with an average wage of 30 to 40 Euros a month, sewing up to 12 hours a day for textile discounts in Europe, Canada and the USA.

Immediately after the tragic event in 2013, HOPE’87 delegated a local team of first aid workers, including 20 specially trained volunteers, to support Bangladesh’s military forces in rescuing injured people, as well as removing dead bodies from the site.

Apart from the many dead, at least 2.000 workers were injured, many of them severely and often permanently, making them unfit for work altogether. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) about 40 million US dollars are needed in order to support the victims of the Rana Plaza catastrophe, compensating for lost income and medical treatment. Yet, not even half of the identified 28 companies have contributed to the installed Donors Trust Fund, which is still missing 25 million US dollars.

The financial, social and also family-related consequences of the Rana Plaza collapse are multilayered and severe. Many young women who were permanently injured, e.g. loosing a limb, unable to care for themselves anymore, had to give up their whole existence, leaving behind the city and going back to their families. Some of them qualified for special payment from the Bangladesh government, but as many stories tell, the money often does not reach the true victims, mostly due to gender inequalities and the general high degree of poverty in the country.  One year after the Rana Plaza catastrophe, many of the victims have not received accurate help.

At least some good news can be proclaimed as the minimum wage for workers in the textile industry has increased by 60% to about 50 Euros a month. Even more importantly the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh” has been designed in order to make garment factories in Bangladesh a safer workplace. Until now about 150 apparel corporations from 20 countries around the world, trade unions and international organizations signed this agreement – a mere drop in the ocean.

HOPE’87 has been actively involved in providing support for some of the Rana Plaza victims and is supporting survivors throughout its various projects in Bangladesh.

 

Sources:

Der Spiegel: “Billigwaren. Made in Bangladesh“ (01.07.2013)

http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-101368207.html

Der Standard: “Bangladesh: Das Ringen um Gerechtigkeit“ (23.04.2014)

http://derstandard.at/1397521320943/Bangladesch-Das-Ringen-um-Gerechtigkeit

Salzbuger Nachrichten: “Ein Jahr nach Rana Plaza: Arbeiten mit der Todesangst“ (24.04.2014)

http://www.salzburg.com/nachrichten/welt/chronik/sn/artikel/ein-jahr-nach-rana-plaza-arbeiten-mit-der-todesangst-103771/

Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh

http://www.bangladeshaccord.org/