CRP gives hope to Rana Plaza survivors

Rehana Akter

With the collapse of the factories they toiled for and resultant life-threatening injuries, they had thought that their lives had come to an end or at least they would be left to die a painful death as they could not afford treatment.

But two years after of the deadly Rana Plaza disaster, the survivors who took treatment at the Centre for the Rehabilitation for the Paralysed (CRP) have started dreaming a new life again thanks to the services provided by the centre.

“I was feeling helpless after losing my left leg in the tragedy,” said Rehana Akter, one of the survivors.

“But after coming to the CRP and getting artificial leg attached to my left leg, I am now hopeful that I will be able to build my life again,” she said.

The 24-year-old former garment worker was speaking at a programme organised to commemorate the victims of the building collapse at the CRP's Mirpur campus in the capital yesterday. 

The CRP organised the event on the eve of the second anniversary of the country's worst-ever workplace disaster, to be observed nationally and internationally today.

Rehana is one of the 509 Rana Plaza survivors who have been helped out by the CRP. Of them, 169 were in-patients and 340 out-patients. Of the in-patients, 36 received treatment for amputations and 38 for spinal injuries.

Ashraful, another survivor, said it had seemed to him that there would be no life, after his left side got almost paralysed. He has come around after taking therapy at the CRP.   

The CRP also trained him on how to manage a shop, and set up a shop for him in his village home.

“I now run it. I want to expand the shop and earn more money so my two children receive proper education,” said the former worker of Ether Tex, which was housed in the Rana Plaza building.

The CRP's support has gone beyond medical treatment. It has trained 390 survivors on various vocational trades such as tailoring, animal husbandry and electrical mechanics.

Of them, 370 have been rehabilitated. The rest will also be rehabilitated, said Shafiq-ul Islam, executive director of the CRP. Officials of the CRP helped set up business, shops and buy cows instead of giving the money in their hands. The centre spent Tk 1 lakh for each patient.

The CRP received about Tk 4.5 crore as donations from individuals and others meant for Rana Plaza survivors in 2013. But it stopped taking donations after that as it thought the amount was enough to treat the patients, according to Islam. 

Now there was no Rana Plaza survivor who is taking treatment from the CRP. However, three survivors Yeanur Akter, Sabina Yasmin and Rehana Begum will receive long-term rehabilitation.

Of them, Yeanur, 16, who is now studying at class VI, will continue to stay at the CRP until she passes the Secondary School Certificate exam. Thomas Prinz, German ambassador to Bangladesh, said a lot of good things, ideas and innovations have come out of the tragedy. “And I would like to say that you are not alone. Germany is committed to providing long-term support as disability is not a short-term issue,” he said.

The ambassador said German organisation GIZ has initiated projects for the disabled, so they can start working again and they are treated with dignity. He also said the country's image crisis imposed by the Rana Plaza collapse has not overcome yet. “We need to continue progressing, and the momentum has to translate into development results.”

Valerie Taylor, founder and coordinator of the CRP, expressed deep gratitude for coming up with outpouring support for the victims of Rana Plaza.

Jochen Weikert, programme coordinator at GIZ, said it is a sad day not only in the history of Bangladesh, but also in the history of the world. “But we would like to say that we are committed to supporting in your (the survivors) journey from despair to hope,” he said. 

Khondkar Mostan Hossain, joint secretary of the labour and employment ministry, said the government has taken a number of steps with the help of other stakeholders. Progresses of the initiatives are visible.

Christine Cipolla, head of delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the stories of Rana Plaza survivors' strong determination of not giving up have given Red Cross hope. “We have passed two years, but miles and miles lie ahead of us, and we are committed to standing by the most vulnerable,” she said.

Reaz Bin Mahmood, a vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the wellbeing of the workers would be growth of the country's garment sector in the years to come.