Rana Plaza collapse victims no closer to recovery

Six months after the world’s worst garment factory disaster, at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, victims are still awaiting compensation and suffering from injuries that have prevented the vast majority from returning to work, according to a new survey by ActionAid.

The survey comes as the Bangladesh government along with the global alliance of trade unions continue to negotiate compensation for survivors and families of the deceased.

ActionAid surveyed 2297 people - nearly two thirds of survivors and families of those who died in the eight-storey factory collapse on 24 April this year.  The study reveals that:

  • Ninety-four per cent reported they have not received any legal benefits from their employers since April, including sick pay or compensation. 
  • Ninety-two per cent of survivors have not gone back to work.
  • Of these, 63 per cent said physical injury such as amputations, paralysis, severe pains in the head, leg and body have stopped them going back to work.  
  • Ninety-two per cent of survivors reported being deeply traumatized, with over half experiencing insomnia and trembling from loud sounds. Some said they were scared to walk into a building or an enclosed room. 

Twenty-one-year-old Naznin Akhter Nazma, who was pregnant when pulled from the rubble and lost her husband in the collapse said:

“The day before the factory collapsed we heard that a crack had developed on the second floor, but the supervisor announced that the building was safe and threatened to withhold a month's pay if we didn’t attend work.

“My husband worked on the second floor and I on the seventh floor.  When the building collapsed I was unconscious for two hours.  When I regained consciousness I found out that my husband was gone forever.

“I heaved a sigh of relief when the doctor said my unborn baby was ok, but now I am worried that I can’t provide for my child.  I haven’t had any compensation.  My rent is five months overdue and soon shop keepers will stop giving me credit for food.”

In addition to physical and psychological trauma, the report reveals that victims are facing severe financial difficulty.  Food, medical treatment and household essentials were identified as immediate needs. Yet almost half of those surveyed said they had mounting debts and over 90 per cent said they had no savings, due to low wages before the factory collapse.  

To date only one company, Primark, has provided financial support to survivors – three months’ salary of 15,000 Bangladeshi taka (US$190) to 3300 people.  The Bangladesh government has given 2.2 million taka (US$28,000) to 777 people - around a third of the victims and their family members - but no long-term compensation package has been agreed.

Farah Kabir, ActionAid’s Country Director in Bangladesh said:

“It’s indefensible that for six months, multi-million dollar companies have left the victims to fend for themselves.  

“While corporations sit on their hands, the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster are in urgent need of medical and psychological support, as well as the financial means to feed and care for their families.”

ActionAid is calling on companies negotiating the compensation package to deliver a fair deal for the survivors and families of the deceased. The aid agency is also calling on companies to sign up to The Bangladesh Safety Accord, a five-year legally binding agreement between international labour organisations, non-governmental organisations and retailers to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh textile industry.

Ends 

For interviews and more information contact:

In London: Tricia O’Rourke on Tel: +44 (0) 203 122 0824 or Mob: +44 (0) 7850 312 438 tricia.o'rourke@actionaid.org

In Dhaka: Tanveer Khan on Tel: +880 2 8837796, +880 2 9894331 or Mobile: +88 01816361158 tanveer.khan@actionaid.org

Editors' notes
  • The survey was carried by ActionAid in order to provide a comprehensive assessment of the needs of the survivors and families of the deceased workers. A total of 2297 people were surveyed of which 1509 were survivors of the collapse and 788 were family members of those that died. It was not possible to contact all 2421 survivors and families of the 1133 deceased due to cell phone numbers changing, inaccurate cell phone numbers in central records and some people were unavailable as the survey was carried out during Ramadan and the rainy season.
  • On 30 September the High Court of Bangladesh proposed over 1.8 million Bangladeshi taka (US$23,000) as compensation for each family of the deceased, with 1-1.5 taka million (US$12,900 – US$19,000) for survivors with amputations. For survivors with complete paralysis, the committee proposed 2 million taka (US$25,700).
  • ActionAid Bangladesh was part of the immediate rescue operation and humanitarian response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse, providing oxygen masks, hydraulic jacks, high powered torches and fans among other emergency apparatus.  It provided food and water to the victims and financial support to two pregnant women and two critically injured people, who were assessed as being at greatest need.  ActionAid is lobbying for a fair compensation package for the victims and families of those who died.
  • ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to achieve greater human rights for all and defeat poverty. We believe people in poverty have the power within them to create change for themselves, their families and communities. ActionAid is a catalyst for that change.