Friday May 10, 2013

Islamic Relief supports garment factory rescue mission

“At the heart of this tragedy is weak enforcement of safety standards,” says Shabel Firuz, Islamic Relief’s Bangladesh Country Director. “There is a desperate need to address this, especially as Dhaka lies on an earthquake fault line. With 90% of the city’s buildings said by the Prime Minister to be in breach of building regulations, the impact of a large or even moderate earthquake could be even more devastating. The events of this week should be a wake-up call for the Bangladeshi authorities to tighten up law enforcement and for factory owners and western fashion retailers to improve working conditions.”

Islamic Relief Bangladesh has a growing international reputation for its disaster preparedness work in a country known as the world’s most disaster prone because of its vulnerability to floods, earthquakes and tropical cyclones. It has helped vulnerable families to protect their homes from flooding and trained thousands of volunteers to lead the way in evacuation and rescue operations in the event of earthquakes. This week we have supported the rescue operation in Dhaka by supplying a wide range of equipment to the Fire and Civil Defence Department, from protective helmets and face masks to hydraulic drills and jacks.

“We thought our worst nightmare would be an earthquake in a major population centre like Dhaka,” says Shabel Firuz. “But the collapse of this building with so many workers inside is every bit as devastating as an earthquake of the highest magnitude for the families involved. We are reaching out to save and help those we can, but we also need to ask searching questions about how tragic events like this can be avoided in the future.

“The causes of this tragedy look complex, and it would be simplistic to blame western buyers and fashion retailers alone. There are problems that need to be looked at that are associated with authorised contractors sub-contracting to others, and companies operating out of unfit buildings without licences. We work closely with the fire service, and we would like to see them given more resources and greater authority to enforce safety regulations. In the absence of stronger compliance with safety requirements, the lives of many thousands of workers are being put at risk every day to provide cheap clothing for export.”

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