Kathmandu, Nov.19: Governments of South Asian countries urged to urgently protect sanitation workers
As the UN marks World Toilet Day, Amnesty International, WaterAid and the International Dalit Solidarity Network call on authorities in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan to take immediate action to protect sanitation workers who are risking their lives on the COVID-19 frontlines.
Across South Asia, workers cleaning toilets and streets, emptying latrine pits and maintaining sewers are faced with acute health and safety risks. They lack adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), training support to cope with risks, job security, social security, health insurance and access to handwashing facilities.
The caste dimension of sanitation work in these countries also means that workers are highly stigmatized and discriminated against when accessing services or seeking other occupations, reads a joint statement issued today by these three organisations.
New research by WaterAid in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse for the vast majority of these workers. Some have even been redeployed to service COVID-19 quarantine centres with limited training on COVID-9 related risks or how to use PPE.
Their financial security has also been affected either due to increased but non-compensated working hours in some cases, and reduced demand for their services in others. Their transportation costs increased due to lockdowns and many had to buy face masks and other equipment that their employers did not regularly provide.