A new report authored by the International Labour Organisation, WaterAid, World Bank and World Health Organisation focuses on the well being of sanitation workers; their safety, health and dignity.
The report was launched on World Toilet Day, November 19 with the aim to direct attention to the working conditions of some of the most marginalized, poor and discriminated against members of society. The sanitation jobs include cleaning toilets, emptying pits and septic tanks, cleaning sewers and operating pumping stations and treatment plants.
The report focuses on those workers in the developing world who have no equipment, protection or legal rights and is the most extensive research on the subject to date.
The workers are often in direct contact with human waste and are exposed to a wide variety of health hazards and disease arising from exposure to toxic gases such as ammonia, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. While there are no global statistics available, it is estimated that in India alone, three workers die every five days.
The workers’ plight is not just health related. Pay ranges from non-existent to occasional, often paid in barter arrangements. There are no rights or social protections and often the work carries a social stigma.
The supporters of the project have spoken out claiming that the situation cannot be allowed to continue and that working conditions have to improve in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. Jennifer Sara, Global Director, World Bank Water Global Practice, emphasized that this is the first time such a report has been issued and called for all sector actors to come together and improve the quality of the lives of sanitation workers.