37% waste workers lack knowledge about where or how to access medical treatment if they get symptoms or test positive for Covid-19, study finds
Around 48% of general waste workers are experiencing income reduction while 71 % are experiencing an expenditure upsurge due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in the country, a study says.
Bangladesh Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) Network revealed the number in a webinar on Thursday while sharing the findings of four studies done by Practical Action, SNV Netherlands Development Organization, WaterAid Bangladesh and Water, and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), according to a media statement.
Experts shed light on the most unheard voices and the needs of frontline waste and sanitation workers in the webinar titled “Impact of Covid-19 on Waste and Sanitation Frontliners.”
While discussing the immediate impact of coronavirus on waste workers in Gazipur City Corporation and 9 other municipalities in Bangladesh, Dr Shawkat A Begum, country director of Practical Action said: “Since the pandemic broke out, more than half of the waste workers borrowed money from others as they are running short of income sources.”
Eight of every 10 female waste workers were unable to manage their menstrual hygiene and faced difficulties to maintain hygiene at the workplace, she said.
According to a study conducted by SNV Netherlands Development Organization, around 33% of the health care stations have functional toilets with no cleanliness and privacy while more than 20% have no hand washing solutions and 59% have no facilities for menstrual hygiene management.
“While movements of citizens are mostly restricted in Bangladesh, waste workers are continuously protecting their communities, dealing with waste collection and management, cleaning public places, and maintaining sanitation services,” said Hasin Jahan, country director of WaterAid Bangladesh while discussing their study on risk and vulnerability of waste workers during Covid-19 pandemic.
“37% of workers lack knowledge about where or how to access treatment if they get symptoms or test positive for Covid-19. 39% workers do not have access to handwashing facilities at work. Surprisingly, 23% medical cleaners do not wash hands after helping a patient, which poses both personal and public infection risk,” she mentioned.
“This socially and economically marginalised group is already living in congested colonies, slums or low-income informal settlements with limited access to basic services, further escalating their vulnerability during this pandemic.” she added.
The study conducted by WSUP investigated the drastic silence of service demand and the impact of the changes of city dwellers’ socio-economic behaviour on current demand generation strategy.
Country Programme Manager of WSUP, Abdus Shaheen said: “Our study unveiled the business barriers due to Covid-19 and the entrepreneurs’ plan to cope with the new normal. We observed that the demand for pit-emptying has reduced drastically up to 80% while their expenditure in the last two months crossed 162% of the monthly earnings from the sanitation business.”
Among others, Prof Dr Tanvir Ahmed, director of ITN-BUET; Dewan Kamal Ahmed, president, Municipal Association of Bangladesh (MAB) and Mayor, Nilphamari Municipality discussed the different aspects of the impact of Covid-19 on waste and sanitation workers in the webinar.
The webinar was moderated by Advocacy and Development Communications Specialist Gunjan Barua.