Stakeholders in the sanitation and hygiene sector on Wednesday urged all tiers of government to promote the safety and well-being of sanitation workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
The stakeholders, who expressed the viewpoint in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, stated that sanitation workers were providing essential public service, in keeping the cities, towns and villages running and clean, even in the midst of the pandemic.
According to them, in spite of working in a dangerous and essential profession under heightened risks, little is known about how sanitation workers are coping with the disease.
The National Coordinator, Society for Water and Sanitation, Mr Benson Attah, said that the need to protect lives of sanitation workers could not be overemphasised, as they were the front line soldiers warding off any potential outbreak or infection of citizens.
He stressed the importance of proper monitoring and tracking system of possible incidents and the regular provision of essential working tools, whenever required or necessary.
“The need for each tier of government to promote the safety and well-being of sanitation workers during COVID-19 in the country can never be overemphasised.
“This is because these are the front line soldiers that would ward off any possible impending or potential outbreak or infection of the citizens.
“Hence, the need to ensure that their capacities are properly enhanced; this must include training and appropriate equipment with essential facilities that are necessary to efficiently protect themselves, enhance the sustainable protection of the environment and the citizens.”
For her part, Ms Funmi Agbelusi, Coordinator, Hygiene for All, a group, harped on the need for rapid assessments, to identify challenges being faced by sanitation workers in the midst of the lockdown.
This, she said, would help to propose potential solutions to address both immediate and long-term needs of the workers.
Agbelusi noted that there had always been a strong, but neglected, moral and public health imperative, to protect sanitation workers’ rights.
“The COVID-19 pandemic not only strengthens that case, but also represents an opportunity to redress the historical neglect.”
On measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in all workplaces, Agbelusi said that all people at the workplace must adhere to the hand washing culture, or disinfection with alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
She noted that it was worrisome that the use of the face masks was not being done properly and frequently, as a large number of the population believed that the virus was no longer in Nigeria.
“We must continue to emphasise physical distancing of at least one metre or more, according to the national recommendations; wearing of face masks where distancing is not possible.
“We must ensure regular environmental cleaning and disinfection and limiting unnecessary travel, clear policies and messages, training and education for staff and managers, to increase awareness of COVID-19, are essential.
“The management of people with COVID-19 or their contacts is also critical, requiring workers who are unwell or who develop symptoms to stay at home, self-isolate and contact a medical professional or the local COVID-19 information line for advice, on testing and referral.”
Edited By: Folorunso Poroye/Felix Ajide