Nepalgunj : We cannot imagine the healthy, clean and sustainable city without proper management of waste. To manage waste effectively the waste worker should be healthy and motivated for their job. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, its importance has been further eroded.
In the case of Nepal, its situation is critical. Waste workers across the nation are facing greater risk to their occupational health and livelihood as the country suffering from COVID-19 Pandemic and went through long time lockdown and economy is slowing due to it.
To address the situation of waste workers, the MDM- France has initiated a Healthy waste workers project in Nepalgunj to strengthen waste workers’ individual and collective capacities to prevent the COVID-19 spread. And ensure proper and safe urban waste collection and Increase access to quality occupational health services for formal and informal waste workers.
A joint initiative of Nepalgunj Sub metropolitan city,GIZ- Nepal and MdM-France. Itaims to support around 2000 vulnerable Valmiki communities involving in waste management residing in Nepalgunj area, according to Basanta Thapa, Program Manager, MDM- Field office Nepalgunj.
The project kicked off on October 2020 delivering safety awareness and distributing PPE and Hygiene kits to 350 waste workers in Nepalgunj who are working in Municipality, Land field side, Bheri Hospital, different private company and Scrap collectors.
The project is supporting waste workers on three levels. First, they provide awareness sessions/ training to formal waste workers Supervisors and peer educators of Informal waste workers on COVID-19, its sign and symptoms, proper hand hygiene technique, appropriate use of PPE and disposal mask in workplace, Awareness on Gender base violence, use and disposal of gloves and masks, menstrual pads and handing over posters, flyer to make them aware about the virus, and things that dos and don’ts to prevent its spread.
Second, those Waste worker supervisors sensitized and orient to waste workers on the same topic and after that provision of safety gears like protective jumpsuits (2 set jacket and trouser), cap, 3 pair of protective gloves, masks, and protective gum boots; basic Hygiene kits including reusable towel, sanitizer, detergent soap, sanitizer, chlorine for disinfectant, Condom for male and sanitary pads for female waste workers.
They have chosen to provide protective jumpsuits over PPE to waste workers as “we felt PPE wouldn’t be the right gear for them” as per Thapa
He added, “Before our programme started, there has no any programme in Nepalgunj which targeted to either formal or informal waste workers. In Nepalgunj Basically three type of waste workers. The first are formal who are involved in municipality waste management system. Informal scarab collectors who bye metal and paper product and informal waste pickers they usually pick plastic bottles, bags and metal piece from land field side and they have high risk of cut, stab and laceration wound while they work”.
The program has been launched to minimize the risk and impact of the COVID-19 infection on the sanitation workers and to keep the city clean and tidy in a sustainable manner, said Dr. Dhawal Shamsher Rana, Mayor of the sub-metropolitan municipality.
Uma Thapa, Deputy Mayor, emphasized that the people involved in waste management are at high risk of corona, workplace injuries and gender base violence etc. so hence Healthy waste workers project is implementing at the right time in Nepalgunj.
A team of 5 members have been working every day in the Nepalgunj at present. To ensure everyone’s safety in the field, they adopted program guideline adhering to the recommended by WHO on COVID-19.
To ensure appropriate proportional distribution of relief packages, they have partnered with different waste management organizations. “They have provided us with the list of waste workers in their network and helped in facilitating the process of distribution of the materials to right beneficiaries,” claimed Thapa.
The distributions in the Nepalgunj were conducted in the presence of the local government Mayor, deputy Mayor and Government Officials of Nepalgunj Sub metropolitan City.
Thapa is happy to be a part of this project as she said, “Despite doing a phenomenal job of keeping the community clean, waste workers are often deprived of the respect they deserve. I am blessed to work with them on the field. They are the ones who deserve the support.”
Mr. Prakash D.C. added, “These waste workers are innocent and humble. Whenever I see them smiling or the satisfaction, it really makes me feel good.”
They duo urged the public to support these workers by reducing the production of waste at home. They shared in unison: “There’s a high chance of generation of hazardous waste via masks, gloves etcetera that can carry the coronavirus, further risking the health of waste workers, so, we can segregate waste properly to help them in their job and keep them safe.”