Survivors still haunted by Rana Plaza

How can we provide long-term assistance?

Three years into the Rana Plaza collapse, as many as 58.4 percent of Rana Plaza survivors are still suffering from mental illnesses and trauma that are adversely impacting their day-to-day lives, according to a survey conducted this March by ActionAid Bangladesh, on 1,300 survivors and 500 relatives of the deceased. The survey also found that, although the unemployment rate of survivors has gradually decreased over the last three years, 48.2 percent of them are still unemployed, as a result of their physical (56.5 percent) and mental weakness (34.1 percent). Meanwhile, the physical condition of 14.6 percent of survivors has actually deteriorated compared to last year.

The spectre of Rana Plaza continues to haunt these survivors, for whom the compensation provided by the brands and the government was woefully insufficient to make up for a life of long-term disability, unemployment and poverty. As the survey further highlights, most of the money received as compensation was spent paying back debts and on food and household essentials including treatment. In fact, the compensation received by the injured, particularly those suffering from mental injuries, was simply not enough to pay for long-term treatment. 

As such, we strongly endorse the call of the researchers that the government introduce a 'health card' for those suffering from long-term illnesses, using which survivors can receive free treatment and medicine from local government hospitals. In addition, the government, in collaboration with BGMEA and NGOs, should ensure proper treatment and free counselling for those suffering from long-term mental illnesses, given the severity of the trauma suffered by those who had been trapped. 

Meanwhile, concerned stakeholders should provide suitable income-generating activities for survivors who are unable to retain strenuous jobs because of their debilitating health conditions.