Few countries have guidelines to protect sanitation workers - GulfToday

Few countries have guidelines to protect sanitation workers

Need for guidelines

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

I am always touched by the plight of sanitation workers in the developing world. The United Nations has rightly cautioned that their rights, health and dignity are at risk.

The publication - “Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers” - produced jointly with the International Labour Organization (ILO), The World Bank and WaterAid — examines nine case studies of sanitation workers in low and middle-income countries, who empty pits and tanks, transport faecal sludge and perform sewer maintenance.

It rightly describes the workforce as “invisible, unquantified, and ostracized” and insists that many of the challenges that sanitation workers face stem from a lack of acknowledgment for what they do. While the workers include full-time employees with health benefits, pensions and legal protection, a significant proportion comes from some of the “most marginalized, poor and abused members of society”.

I feel sad reading the report. All that is on offer for these people is “low-grade, labour-intensive and dangerous work”, as the report mentions, highlighting the hazardous biological and chemical agents they encounter in dangerous environments.

These casual sanitation workers receive poor pay and benefits such as access to healthcare, along with weak enforcement and oversight of laws and policies protecting them.

According to WHO, poor sanitation alone causes up to 432,000 diarrhoeal deaths annually, and it is also linked to the transmission of other diseases including cholera, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis A and polio. Few countries in the developing world have any guidelines to protect sanitation workers and that’s sad.

Riyaz Babu
By email

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