GLOBAL ALLIANCE OF WASTE PICKERS
GLOBAL ALLIANCE OF
WASTE PICKERS
The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers is a networking process supported by WIEGO, among thousands of waste picker organizations with groups in more than 28 countries covering mainly Latin America, Asia and Africa.
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January 29, 2012


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Nigeria – 29 Jan 2012 –

Health is wealth they say, but some people neglect the basic hygienic rules to make money in order to earn a living. Kehinde Ajobiewe takes a look at the hazards posed on scavenger in their quest for survival.

For 14-year-old Abuba Suleiman who wakes up every morning, moving from one dust bin to the other to pick up items from refuse dumps which he sells to earn a living, life has been very hard. When LEADERSHIP SUNDAY met him, he was found picking up empty cans, bottles and some other items which he said he sells at the end of the day.

When asked why he does this withouth using hand gloves. He said through an interpreter that the ‘dirty trade’ is his only source of livelihood. According to him, “this is the only thing I do to feed myself, it is the only source of income I have, since I don’t have parents and there is no one to cater for my needs. I don’t use gloves because I don’t have, but I make sure I wash my hands with soap and water before eating.”

Due to the constant contacts with germs, Suleiman said he falls sick often.

“Sometimes I get ill and I will have no choice than to use part of my meager income to get drugs to treat myself.”

Suleiman is like every other scavenger who earns their living through one of the unhealthiest trade not minding the havocs it costs their health. Scavengers are people who collect garbage from streets and dumpsite to sell to middlemen who in turn sell them for recycling.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY observed that scavengers in Nigeria unlike those in the developed countries care less about personal hygiene, as you hardly see those picking things from sites with gloves on their hands nor face masks to cover their mouths and nostrils. And any observer cannot help but wonder if they have lost their sense of smell. This means they do not only deal in garbage, but they also breathe in the odour that comes from waste bins and dumpsites from which they pick garbage from.

Study shows that germs and infectious diseases easily spread in an unhygienic environment, this means scavengers are easily prone to getting infected with bacteria and germs.

Just like Suleiman, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that every scavengers are people who do not visit hospitals when they get sick or hurt themselves while doing their jobs.

They probably run to people that hawk drugs around to get something to ease their pains. But this also poses a greater threat to their health because the people selling such drugs are inexperienced and there is the probability that the drugs which they hawk under the sun might have expired, since all medicines are meant to be kept in cool dry places.

Findings also show that they are helpless because most of them are illiterate people who do not know the right things to do to obtain proper treatment when they are sick because there is no one to guide them in doing the right thing. And also, they lack the wherewithal to visit hospitals for proper treatments and health care considering the meager amount they earn through their business, which is meant to cater for other needs such as feeding, clothing among others.

In the case of Ibrahim Hamisu, 17, the story could not be better. Ibrahim that was seen collecting garbage from a street within Abuja metropolis into black disposable leather with one gloved hand, said it is his only means of income. He also said through an interpreter that, “this is what I do daily. My parents reside in Yola. I’m the only one taking care of myself here. I make up to N500 in a day. I know it is a dirty job, but I have no choice but to continue with it because I have no other means of livelihood. I make sure I wash my hands before putting anything in my mouth.”

Usman Muamo, on his own part also said “this is where I get my daily income. This is where I get money to feed myself I have hand gloves but I forgot to use them today.”

Just like the other two, he said, “if I finish this work that I am doing now I will go home and have my bath before settling down to eat.” There is an extent to which the human bodies can withstand germs and odour, and so as human as Muhammed is, he usually falls sick. “I fall sick at times”

All of these people have a similar story to tell. It is either their parents are dead or they have been left to fend for themselves at an early stage of their lives, and since they have no money to start a trade, they resorted to the dirty business of trading garbage for money at the detriments of their wealth, and probably spending most of their hard earned money treating infections.

A medical practitioner, Dr. Segun Bakare said scavengers are opened to a lot of health hazards in the course of picking things from refuse dumps to fend for themselves.

According to him, “most scavengers go to refuse dumps wearing only slippers.

Sometimes broken bottles or sharp objects can cut their hands and legs, and these are people who would not go to hospitals for treatment and so if such wound is not treated, it may get infected with tetanus which is a very deadly disease.”

He also spoke on the dangers posed on them by not wearing gloves and face masks while looking for their daily bread. “You see them picking things from dirty and smelling sites without using hand gloves nor face masks, which means they can easily inhale bacteria in the air and get infected with diseases. Some of them don’t wash hands, some may even buy food and eat while picking from refuse dumps. “

Speaking on the benefits of hand washing in the prevention of infection, Bakare said, “hand washing is very paramount in the prevention of diseases and infections. That is to say that scavengers can easily contact diseases such as typhoid fever, and diarrhea which are easily contacted by living unhygienic ways.” Read original article