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A rapid study on the challenges facing sanitation workers in Indian cities and towns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

TitleHealth, safety and social security challenges of sanitation workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in India
Publication TypeResearch Report
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSingh, K, Somani, P
Pagination28 p. : 10 fig., 4 tab.
Date Published09/2020
PublisherUrban Management Centre and WaterAid India
Place PublishedNew Delhi, India
Publication LanguageEnglish

While sanitation workers already face several health and safety risks, financial challenges and stigma due to the nature of their work and caste-based discrimination, the COVID-19 pandemic has further added to their challenges and vulnerabilities. The Urban Management Centre and WaterAid India jointly conducted a rapid assessment to understand the health, safety and social security challenges faced by sanitation workers in cities/towns across India during the COVID-19 pandemic. This involved telephonic and face-to-face interviews of 95 sanitation workers and 12 urban local body (ULB) officials from 18 cities/towns across 9 States/Union Territories (UTs) of India, conducted between 26 May and 8 June 2020. In addition, a secondary review of government guidelines and advisories, and media reports was undertaken.

Nine different categories of sanitation work were covered: domestic waste collection, street sweeping, cleaning at hospitals/quarantine centres, desludging of sewers/septic tanks and faecal sludge treatment plant (FSTP) operations, drain cleaning, cleaning of community/public/institutional toilets, waste/ rag picking, waste collection at hospitals/quarantine centres, and dry latrine cleaning.

This report presents findings on the awareness of COVID-19 preventive measures; use of personal protective equipment; hand hygiene practices; medical examination/ testing: impact on working conditions; livelihood and financial implications; insurance coverage; additional challenges faced by female sanitation workers; and COVID-19 related support measures by various agencies. Key recommendations are provided for immediate health and safety measures in the COVID-19 context; social and financial protection measure; and long-term systemic measures.


Includes 7 ref.

Citation Key87224



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