Across the world, many sanitation workers face working conditions that threaten their health, safety and dignity every day, violating their human rights.

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.

Sanitation and decent work conditions are both human rights; one human right cannot come at the expense of another. In the drive to reach Sustainable Development Goal 6 by 2030, we cannot neglect SDG 8, which requires decent conditions for all workers – including sanitation workers.

Few developing countries have guidelines to protect sanitation workers, leaving them exposed to a litany of health and safety issues. There are no global statistics, but in India alone between 2017 and late 2018 there was on average one death of a sanitation worker every five days, according to official estimates. Other sources estimate three times as many. Countless more suffer repeated infections and injury, and have their lives cut short by the daily risks of the job.

 IN57_001_WaterAid_ CS Sharada Prasad
WaterAid/ CS Sharada Prasad

Access to decent toilets that properly manage waste is a human right and forms part of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. We will need many more sanitation workers across the world if we are to achieve this ambitious target. Safely managed sanitation must go hand in hand with ensuring safe and dignified working environments for the people who run and maintain the sanitation services that protect our health.

While it might be difficult for Canadians to imagine, five million Indians engage in this work every year. Through various jobs of cleaning and maintaining sewers and latrines, fecal sludge handling, human waste removal from railways, work in waste treatment plants, sweeping and drain cleaning, and domestic work, sanitation workers face risk every single day.

Furthermore, health and safety training does not exist.

Toxic gases from these working conditions can cause workers to lose consciousness and even die. It is estimated that three sanitation workers die every five days, while countless others suffer from repeated infections and injury. The stigma of these jobs also takes a toll on workers and their families.

Your past support and trust in WaterAid Canada’s work demonstrates your generosity and understanding of the need for change and the resources required to do so.

Your donation will drive positive change and help improve working conditions for the millions of people working in India’s sanitation sector.


 IN55_108_WaterAid_ CS Sharada Prasad_ Safai Karmachari Kavalu Samiti
Image: WaterAid/ CS Sharada Prasad