Around 8,000 cleaners of both the city corporations in Dhaka, who cannot afford sanitisers, masks and protective equipment, are doing their jobs taking the high risk of coronavirus infection and transmission.
According to the city corporations, there are 4,000-4,500 cleaners in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and 3,000 in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) who collect household wastes and take those to secondary transfer stations (STSs).
Officials said these cleaners are not directly under the city corporations as they work under different area-based voluntary organisations. Following approval from the city corporations, the organisations collect wastes from houses and take those to STSs in vans.
Though there is a government directive to use safety equipment to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the cleaners are seen working without those.
Some are using masks but no hand gloves, alleged some residents of Gulshan, Uttara and Malibagh areas.
During a visit to Baridhara, Kuril and Gulshan areas, the UNB correspondent found that the cleaners are working at STSs without using safety gears.
Dr Khan Abul Kalam Azad, Principal of Dhaka Medical College Hospital and also a medicine specialist, said the cleaners must use hand gloves and masks while collecting household wastes.
“Otherwise, they’ll spread virus from house to house if anyone is infected as they have to go to many houses for collecting wastes,” he said.
Commodore M Monzur Hossain, the chief waste management official of DNCC, said though the cleaners do not work directly under them, they asked the voluntary organisations who engage the cleaners to ensure the use of protective gears for them.
A session was held to make them aware about the safety gears. Besides, hand gloves and masks have been given from the city corporations, he said adding that they will monitor the use of the safety gears.
DNCC panel mayor Jamal Mostafa told UNB that normally local ward councillors monitor the area-based cleaners.
Safety gears will be given to the cleaners to deal with wastes at all stages and they have already started supplying masks, hand gloves and PPE.
Air Commodore Md Zahid Hossain, the chief waste management officer of DSCC, said all the area-based voluntary organisations have been directed to use safety gears while collecting household wastes.
“The organisations take money from houses for collecting wastes. Then, why they won’t supply safety gears to their cleaners. They must supply. This will strictly be monitored,” the DSCC official added.
Jahanara Begum, a resident of Uttara area, said if they have masks and gloves then there is no logic from the cleaners for not using the safety gears.
City corporations can conduct awareness raising activities in this regard, she said.
Kamal, a cleaner of Bashundhara area, said they did not get any protective gears for their safety from their organisations. “I bought mask personally. But wearing masks all the time is a hassle.’
Abul Kalam, a house owner of Baridhara area, said, “The cleaner who collects wastes from my house doesn’t use safety gears. It’s very essential to ensure the use of safety gears by cleaners."
Other residents of the areas also expressed their concern over the issue as there is a possibility of spreading the virus from house to house through them.