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The African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) on Thursday urged nations to protect the health and dignity of sanitation workers towards the delivery of sanitation services in the region.

Mr. Kitchinme Bawa, AMCOW Sanitation Project Manager, made the call at the ongoing virtual Africa Water and Sanitation Week on Thursday.

He said countries ought to appreciate the critical role sanitation workers played in promoting the wellbeing of the society, saying stigma, discrimination still existed everywhere.

Speaking on the theme, `Sanitation Workers – The Forgotten Human Resource in the Africa Sanitation and Policy Guidelines’, Bawa said there was a need for a change of culture and traditions that discriminated against them.

According to him, the ASPG specifies policy development processes, implementation strategies, and the inclusion of the needs of sanitation workers.

“Sanitation workers make a critical contribution to the provision of sanitation services in all African countries.

“They should be given due consideration when the formulation of policies, particularly regarding their health and safety.

“Governments should ensure that sanitation policies protect the health and safety of all sanitation workers across the service chain,’’ it said.

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He recommended the need to monitor compliance of sanitation service providers to minimum standards, through the promotion of public health by separating fecal wastes from human consumption.

The project manager noted that African governments must prioritize occupational health and safety towards ending further marginalization.

He, however, stressed the need for member countries to have a comprehensive list of all sanitation workers, noting that this would help in partner coordination, inclusion, and efficient service delivery.

Mr. Sulaiman Ahmad, a consultant, delivering a presentation on `Assessment of Health, Safety, and Dignity of Sanitation Workers in Kano-Nigeria’, said 94 percent of sanitation workers were forced into the profession due to economic hardship.

According to him, the assessment carried out by WaterAid Nigeria, revealed that the health and safety of sanitation workers were threatened, with contact with fecal sludge, injuries, and deaths sustained from equipment.

“Part of our findings revealed that a lot of these sanitation workers do not have access to personal protective equipment, some of them have access to it but complained of the boots, outfits being too heavy, and others.

“Enabling environment was not visible, with challenges of poor coordination between mechanical Pit Emptiers Association, sanitation workers and government.

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“There are also issues of the weak legal and regulatory framework for sanitation workers. The roads are also inaccessible, especially during the rainy season’’.

Ahmad stressed the need for reform policies, regulations, and institutional arrangements for all sanitation workers, saying the provision of tools and equipment was vital.

He added the need for key stakeholders to register and license all sanitation workers, and also develop and implement a behavior change campaign for their rights.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that sanitation workers play a crucial role in the delivery of sanitation services, and are involved in various steps of the sanitation service chain.

In spite of their important role, they often go unseen and unrecognized and face several risks to their health, safety, and dignity.

An assessment on the Health, Safety, and Dignity of Sanitation Workers by ILO, WaterAid, WHO, and World Bank in 2019 highlights the need for advocacy and empowerment of sanitation workers; and reforms at the policy, legislative and regulatory levels. 


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