In Bangladesh, authorities have imposed strict lockdowns which have particularly impacted the most vulnerable part of the workforce, including migrant workers working in the shipbreaking sector. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, together with local partner OSHE Foundation, has distributed food and personal protective equipment items to 130 of the most deprived shipbreaking workers’ families.
Each family, comprising at least four members, received a package containing rice, potatoes, wheat flour, dal (dried, split pulses), cooking oil, salt, sugar, tea, potato, onion, chana dal (chickpeas), moori (puffed rice), one re-usable face mask and hand soap. The food can last for at least 10 to 15 days.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform noted that deprived of accessing the meagre government support which is offered to local workers, and in most cases not having been paid their March salaries, migrant workers have furthermore been unable to return to their home villages as all public transport is closed. Thus, they are forced to continue to pay rent for accommodation near the shipbreaking yards.
According to the charity organization, whilst most of the shipbreaking yards in Chattogram remain closed, some have re-started cutting operations. Local trade unions reported that these yards are not paying properly and the government assistance which local workers have received is negligible compared to the need.
“With the food packages distributed by OSHE, at least the workers are not compelled and exploited to go back to the yards and risk exposure to not only the extremely contagious COVID-19 virus in a society where many are deprived of accessing proper medical care, but also to the many dangers shipbreaking involves,” says Sara Rita Da Costa, Project Officer at the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform campaigns for safe and clean recycling and believes that ship owners have the responsibility to ensure that neither workers, nor the environment, and the communities that depend upon it, are harmed.