Victims' struggle on to rebuild life
April 24 is a day the survivors of Rana Plaza disaster find too difficult to forget as it had turned their world upside down.
The horrifying memories of the building collapse still haunt them.
Many survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives as they were not given the financial support they were promised. Many received financial assistance from the government, NGOs, charities and social organisations, which turned out to be inadequate to run the families.
Halima Begum was a sewing machine operator at New Wear Style on the seventh floor of Rana Plaza. She was working on the floor when the building imploded on the fateful day. She survived, but her right leg and left hand were broken.
Halima's life is full of struggle and pain.
The 50-year-old woman got separated from her husband when her son was only five. She worked in different places to bring up her son Rafiqul Islam. Her husband died around 13 years ago.
Halima said she used to earn Tk 9,500 and her 20-year-old son Tk 7,000, with which they ran the four-member family quite well. But after the incident, everything has changed.
Halima had undergone surgeries four times on her leg but still has pain and cannot even stand without a crutch. Neither can she stretch her hand completely or lift heavy things.
“But I could not afford to continue my treatment because of money,” Halima told The Daily Star on Friday, the second anniversary of Rana Plaza collapse, when she, like dozen such survivors and victims' families, thronged the disaster site.
She had to spend Tk 45,000 for her treatment before the government came forward. She had her leg operated for the fourth time in July last year with the government's help.
But after the operation, she could only bear the post-operative treatment costing Tk 1,400 a week for three months, and that too with the help of the government and foreign donors.
Halima got Tk 79,000 from foreign donors and Tk 28,442 from the government.
But things soon turned for the worse one year later when her son Rafiqul lost his job, as he was busy with her mother, and now he has no permanent job. With a few jobs, he now has to feed four people and pay Tk 3,500 as rent.
“Rafiqul has been trying to get a permanent job [in garment factory] for the last one year. But no one gives him a job. Now he has to depend on temporary job,” Halima said.
Halima said they could not make rent for the last three months and the owner asked them to leave.
While talking to The Daily Star, she showed her swollen leg and scars in her hand. “I don't know how we will live and pay rent, let alone continue my treatment,” Halima wondered.
“We have heard that a lot of money comes from abroad. But where does it go?” she asked.
The condition of Nilufa Yasmin is no better. She used to work as a helper.
Nilufa was stuck under the rubble of Rana Plaza for two days. She sustained injuries in her legs and spine.
“Now I can't do anything. Actually I dare not. I even face problem doing household chores,” she said.
She took the charge of her family after her husband met an accident while driving his pick-up truck several years ago. He now seldom drives.
Mother of three children, Nilufa got Tk 95,000 from the government, foreign donors and NGOs. But soon it turned out that the money was inadequate to bear the expenses of her family and children's education. Her elder son studies in class-IX while the youngest one in nursery.
“Finding no way, I sent my daughter to an orphanage where she could study for free,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
She said, “We heard huge money poured in for the victims and survivors. But I don't know whether all the victims got the money.”
Nasrin Khatun, another survivor, worked as an operator on the sixth floor, and was rescued two days after the collapse.
“The money I got had already been spent for my treatment,” said Nasrin who got Tk 65,000 so far.
She said she had to move to her village home in Faridpur as she could not get any job later on.
“If I stay here [Savar], how will I manage the rent and other expenses,” she said.