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Bangladesh: Endless waiting for news of a loved one

24-04-2014 Feature

24 April marks one year since an eight-storey building, where more than 3,000 people were working in factories and shops, collapsed in an industrial suburb on the outskirts of Dhaka. Today there are still families waiting to find out what happened to their loved ones.

Mehera Begum, Babu’s mother, holding the DNA sample paper. 

Mehera Begum, Babu’s mother, holding the DNA sample paper.
© ICRC / R. Sultana Toma

"Where will I find my son?"

Mehera Begum checks everything for the last time – DNA sample papers, other records, everything. She keeps the documents in a plastic packet and heads towards Rana Plaza. This has been her daily routine since the building collapsed a year ago. She has gone every day, not missing a single one, to Rana Plaza where she lost her son, 23-year-old Babu. Now her legs are swollen from all the walking. "Where will I find my son?" she keeps asking, but nobody can give her an answer.

"I want to bury him…"

Mehera recalls that both she and her elder daughter Shiuly were worried about Babu on 23 April 2013, when workers were sent home early after cracks appeared in the walls of the garment factory. They told Babu to skip a day, but he could not. Ever since he lost his father, life had been a real struggle for Babu. He had a huge loan to pay that he had taken during his father's illness.

On 24 April at around 9:00 in the morning, the building where Babu had started working only nine days previously collapsed. When the news reached Shiuly, she ran frantically to Rana Plaza. There she found people from all walks of life – journalists, law enforcement officers, volunteers – but Babu was not there! They looked for him for days in every place they could think of where they might find him – dead or alive.

"Before getting his job as an ironer, my son used to work as a helper on a bus," says Mehera. "How unlucky we are! He died while working in the garment factory, which we thought was a much safer job for him!"

The family was among the first to give DNA samples. They were told they would be contacted if the samples matched. However, they have not received any news yet. "Give me my Babu's body, I want to bury him," cries Mehera.

Waiting for news

Since the day the Savar building collapsed, the tracing department of the Bangladesh Red Crescent, with ICRC support, has been accepting tracing requests from families looking for their loved ones. While many of those sought were found either in hospitals or among the dead, several families are still without news. Those families are still suffering, and still hopeful that they will one day find out what became of their loved ones.

Every time a disaster occurs and a loved one disappears, family members suffer unrelenting anguish. Only by discovering what happened to their lost relative will they ever be able to cope with the situation and move on.

Mehera Begum showing the clothes that Babu used to wear. © ICRC/R. Sultana Toma