1 year after factory collapse, Bangladeshis suffer

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Bangladeshi relatives of victims of last year’s Rana Plaza building collapse stand in front of a monument erected in memory of the victims, during a gathering on the eve of the tragedy in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. More than 1,100 people were killed when the illegally constructed, 8-storey building collapsed on April 24, 2013, in a heap along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. Placard reads “Farzana, Rana Plaza missing.†(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

Bangladeshi relatives of victims of last year’s Rana Plaza building collapse stand in front of a monument erected in memory of the victims, during a gathering on the eve of the tragedy in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. More than 1,100 people were killed when the illegally constructed, 8-storey building collapsed on April 24, 2013, in a heap along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. Placard reads “Farzana, Rana Plaza missing.†(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

A Bangladeshi girl wipes tears from the eyes of a woman who lost a relative in the Rana Plaza building collapse, at the site of the accident, the worst in the history of the garment industry, on the eve of the tragedy in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. More than 1,100 people were killed when the illegally constructed, 8-storey building collapsed on April 24, 2013, in a heap along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

Bangladeshi relatives of victims of last year’s Rana Plaza building collapse, along with activists hold candles during a gathering on the eve of the tragedy, the worst in the history of the garment industry, in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. More than 1,100 people were killed when the illegally constructed, 8-storey building collapsed on April 24, 2013, in a heap along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

A Bangladeshi relative of a victim of last year’s Rana Plaza building collapse cries in front of a monument erected in memory of the victims, during a gathering on the eve of the tragedy in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. More than 1,100 people were killed when the illegally constructed, 8-storey building collapsed on April 24, 2013, in a heap along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. Placard reads “Farzana, Rana Plaza missing.†(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

A Bangladeshi woman who lost her son in the Rana Plaza building collapse cries at the site of the accident, the worst in the history of the garment industry, on the eve of the tragedy in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. More than 1,100 people were killed when the illegally constructed, 8-storey building collapsed on April 24, 2013, in a heap along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

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SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — One year after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in a pile of concrete slabs and twisted metal, Bangladeshi seamstress Shefali says she would rather starve to death than return to factory work.

Like many survivors of the worst disaster the garment industry has ever seen, 18-year-old Shefali, who goes by one name, says she suffers from depression and has flashbacks of the catastrophe that killed more than 1,100 people. She was injured in the collapse that happened a year ago Thursday and has lingering back pain.

And despite efforts by Western brands to improve safety at the Bangladeshi factories that produce their clothes, Shefali fears nothing good will trickle down the poorest of the poor. The country has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world — about $66 a month — while churning out goods for some of the world’s leading retailers.

“We die, we suffer, nobody takes care of us,” Shefali said earlier this month as she toured the site of the collapse, now a barren, fenced-off expanse. She hasn’t started working again and stays at home with her parents.

“I had dreams of getting married, having my own family,” she said. “But now everything looks impossible.”

There have been some significant developments. The owner of the illegally constructed Rana Plaza building is behind bars, pending an investigation, but there has been no word on when he will be put on trial. The owners of the five factories operating inside the building also have been detained.

Authorities have appointed more factory inspectors, plan to appoint more, and say they aim to ensure that no new factories are built without following proper safety regulations.

But problems remain. According to Human Rights Watch, the international companies that sourced garments from five factories operating in the Rana Plaza building are not contributing enough to the trust fund set up to support survivors and the families of those who died.

“One year after Rana Plaza collapsed, far too many victims and their families are at serious risk of destitution,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at the organization. “International garment brands should be helping the injured and the dependents of dead workers who manufactured their clothes.”

The target for the fund, chaired by the International Labor Organization, is $40 million, but only $15 million has been raised so far, HRW said. Retailers Bonmarche, El Corte Ingles, Loblaw and Primark have all pledged money.

Mojtaba Kazazi, a former U.N. official who heads a committee to execute the fund, said they have started disbursing 50,000 takas ($640) as initial payments to the victims’ families.

The very structure of Bangladesh’s garment industry is also viewed as problematic.

According to a recent study by New York University’s Stern School of Business, an “essential feature” of the sector involves factories subcontracting work to other workshops that have even worse conditions.

“In the absence of regulation by the government of Bangladesh, the

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