City cleaners are doing a risky job in this time of coronavirus attack. Unless they get full protection, the possible fallout can be harsh
On the mostly empty streets of Dhaka, a section of people still carry on with their work, embracing the risk of being infected by the coronavirus.
The city corporations have provided them with masks and gloves, but no personal protection dress. And many of them care little about wearing whatever gear they have been provided with.
If they fall sick en masse, the city would sink into many more diseases no less deadlier than Covid-19.
They are our cleaners, the sweepers are popularly known, who are taking our wastes away every day as an emergency service.
Maintaining personal and household hygiene is a key preventive measure to slow down the coronavirus from spreading, meaning when the waste collector rings your doorbell, it cannot go unanswered.
But at what personal cost are these people providing this service to Dhaka residents?
According to physicians, waste collectors – more than 10,000 of whom operate under both the Dhaka city corporations – are at a higher risk of infection as they constantly come in contact with contagious germs.
Community-based waste collector Badsha Miah carries waste and dump them at Khamarbari Secondary Transfer Station every day.
The on-going shutdown doesn't allow him to stop collecting waste, even for a day.
On Thursday when the shutdown began, Badshaw was spotted collecting domestic waste from the apartments in Manipuripara residential area. His hands were covered with gloves. His face was masked. Even a week ago, Badsha rarely took these protective gears.
"If I stop cleaning your trash bins for 10 days, your house will be unlivable," Badsha told this correspondent.
The next day morning, the Dhaka streets were still looked deserted. But there were city corporation cleaners like Zobayer and Manik. They were seen pulling heavy carts laden with domestic waste from apartments in the city's Lalmatia and Mohammadpur areas.
Dr Lenin Chowdhury, life member of the Doctors for Health and Environment–a voluntary organisation of health experts, told The Business Standard, "Waste collectors are at high risk of coronavirus infection. As they do manual scavenging, they put their family members as well as neighbours in the densely populated slums at severe health risk too."
Lenin thinks that the government's fight against coronavirus will not be strong enough if the waste collectors are left less protective.
Air Commodore Md. Zahid Hossain, the Chief Waste Management Officer at DSCC, said that all 5,200 waste management staff, including the waste collectors, are provided with protective gears.
"When they collect waste, they wear hand gloves, face mask, gum boots and raincoat," he said.
Beside waste collection, the DSCC cleaners also spray disinfectant–a mixture of water, bleaching powder and Detol–over the city streets.
According to Jahirul Islam, the assistant waste management officer at DNCC, 2,500 cleaners and 4,000 waste collectors under DNCC collect urban waste in regular basis.
"DNCC has deployed full workforce to lessen risk of coronavirus. If the cleaning stops, the city will be unlivable," he concluded.