Alarming WHO Report About Sanitation Workers Includes India

Sanitation Worker in India

Sanitation workers in India and all over the world have to do their job under worst conditions. Find out about the results of the UN report “Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers”.

Alarming Findings For Sanitation Workers also in India

In November 2019, the WHO published a paper about the situation of sanitation workers all over the world. The report Health, Safety and dignity of Sanitation Workers is a project of the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO), WaterAid, and the World Health Organization (WHO). Its findings are alarming.

The study, which has been conducted in nine different countries, including India, detects four main problems for sanitation workers: Occupational and environmental hazards, weak legal protection of an invisible workforce, financial insecurity, and social stigma and discrimination.

A Long Existing Problem

Even though the study is recent, its label as an “Initial Assessment” shows one of the main problems: The long-time neglection of a world wide stigmatized community. Sanitation workers all over the world have to do their daily job under worst conditions. A lack of health care and financial security, combined with the low reputation of their important work do not only harm their physical, but also mental health.

The report finds implemented measures for the benefits of the sanitation workers in India. Occupational health of the workers, for example, is protected by law and training is provided to the workers. Nonetheless, many people of the scavenger community in India are working in the informal sector. A corrupte and exploitive system also bypasses the formal standards on a daily basis. The rights of sanitation workers in India are far from being satisfying.

How to Improve the Situation for Sanitation Workers in India

The report describes the formalization of the sector as one of the main chances for improvement. We need to standardize measures for health and well-being and implement them accordingly. At the same time, sanitation workers need to be educated concerning necessary work standards and also their rights.

Advocacy and empowerment is an area of action, where MSC is already active. Our Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Community Resource Centres serve as community-run institutions of education and empowerment from within the community. Additionally, our fellowship program is based on the idea of decentralized and autonomous leadership.

As we see from the WHO report, there is still a lot to be done to improve the situation of sanitation workers in India. As part of the scavenger communities, MSC works hand in hand with sanitation workers to make a better future possible.


World Bank, ILO, WaterAid, and WHO. 2019.“Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers: An Initial Assessment.” World Bank, Washington, DC

Cover image: ©Nils Heininger