The unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, by Andrés Hueso. WaterAid, June 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention across the world to the vital roles of key workers such as those employed in healthcare and sanitation. We must use this opportunity to improve the often dangerous conditions they work in every day, argues Andrés Hueso.
If there is anything that has spread faster than the coronavirus during the pandemic, it has been the recognition of healthcare workers. Across the globe, people have been regularly clapping and cheering from windows and front doors to thank these key workers for their effort and courage in facing the threat of COVID-19 in their daily work. Courage that, unfortunately, borders heroism, where they lack personal protective equipment.
This well-deserved tribute should be extended to other workers who are contributing to keeping society going and all of us safe. In particular, I would like to highlight sanitation and waste workers, who keep communities’ environments clean.
A halt to the services they provide would leave societies at risk of outbreaks of many other diseases. All too often lacking adequate information and personal protective equipment to keep themselves safe, their courage also borders on heroism, yet they rarely receive recognition.
Poor conditions and health risks are amplified during the pandemic
Waste and sanitation workers already faced dire working conditions before the pandemic – debilitating infections, injuries, social stigma and even death. During the pandemic, we still need their services, and they must continue to carry them out, whatever the risk, be it because of civic duty, or fear of losing daily income or the job altogether.
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