Rihan: 17 months old and orphaned after Rana Plaza

April 24th, 2013. Like any other morning, Rehana (25) and her husband Mansur (30) were preparing to go to work. Both of them worked for a company producing clothing in the garment factory located on the 5th floor of Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh.

Mansur reminded his wife to hurry, turning up even one minute late would cost them one days wages from their monthly salary. Rehana also knew it but a sense of premonition was preventing her from leaving their six-month son Rihan at home.

The day before the factory was shut down after a crack was identified on the 2nd floor. Most of the workers refused to return to work but supervisors threatened to withhold a full month's salary if they didn’t turn up. A month’s salary of 10,000 taka (£77) salary was a lot of money for Rehana and Mansur who, like most other garment workers, struggled to provide for their families on such a pittance.

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Just before leaving for work Rehana picked up her son, cuddled him for a while and then gave him to her mother, Nazma (60) looks after her grandson while her daughter is at work.

Darling, stay with your grandmother.  Your father and I will return early today and then we will play. Wait for us ok?

This was the last time Rihan saw his mother.

 

Rehana and Mansur couldn’t keep their promise to Rihan. When the Rana Plaza collapsed Rehana, Mansur and around 1,150 others were killed with a further 2,500 people injured. The incident stunned people across the world in one of the worst man-made disasters ever recorded.

Rihan’s grandmother heard about the tragedy from a neighbor.

"I heard from a neighbour about the incident around at 9:00 am. At first I couldn’t sense what to do. Then I rushed to the spot with my husband," says Nazma.

"After searching for almost six hours we found our daughter’s dead body at Enam Medical Collage. Her head was totally smashed," Nazma stated.

They found the body of their son-in-law Mansur at Adhar Chandra School premise nine days after the collapse;

My daughter wished to celebrate Rihan’s first birthday. Needy family but still she tried to save a little in every month to arrange the birthday party. But alas, she could even see her son completing one year!

– Nazma burst into tears as she told her story.

Rihan is 17 months old now.

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"Probably he has forgotten the memories with his parents but when we show their photo he stares at them with a silence. Who knows maybe silently he asks his parents why did they leave him alone?" says Nazma.

The grandparents are worried about Rihan. A local food company is providing Rihan's monthly food including sugar, milk, semolina, rice and also BDT 7000 (£53) in support of the family. Nazma's elder daughter, Rihan's aunt is also trying to support. But it's tough for her as she has to bear her own family with little income. The government had provided the family with BDT 100,000 (£767) as emergency support after the tragedy in Rihan's father's name but this was taken by his uncle.

"He hasn't given us a single penny; didn't even think of his nephew. We haven't received any money from the garment authority or the government for my deceased daughter; not even for the sake of her orphan son," states Nazma.

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Like more than 2,500 survivors and the families of 1,150 deceased garment workers, Rihan's family has also been promised financial assistance and other benefits from Bangladesh government and the garment authority. But a year has passed and most of those expecting payments say they're still waiting.

 

ActionAid Bangladesh is supporting some of the victims and their families including Rihan who has received an amount of BDT 100,000 (£767) as financial assistance. Besides, a private television channel has donated BDT 70,000 (£539) as fixed deposit for Rihan. But the amount is not enough to support a boy who has the rest of his life ahead and no parents to provide for him.

No matter how much crisis is there, we are not to abandon our grandson as long as we are alive,

adds Nazma.

But for how long? Rihan's grandparents are both over 60 and have no income themselves; they are not yet sure how they will support their daughter’s child.