Sanitation workers – pit emptiers, sewer workers and others working across the sanitation chain – provide an invaluable public service. Though essential to achieving the ambitious SDG targets for safely managed sanitation services, their own needs, safety, and dignity are often ignored.
Workers eke out a living in precarious working conditions, exposing them to the worst consequences of poor sanitation – debilitating infections, injuries, social stigma and even death. For those employed informally, their work is financially precarious, with poor pay and few benefits. The spread of mechanised emptying is also putting jobs at risk, and workers find it difficult to transition to other jobs.
They are deeply stigmatised and their family after them for the work they do.
“Protecting sanitation workers’ rights is not only a moral imperative, but also the only way to build up a workforce that can support sanitation services at the scale required to reach everyone, everywhere.”