NEW DELHI. (AP) – Cleaners patiently wait for the truck to dump garbage on top of a landfill outside New Delhi. Armed with plastic bags, they dive with their bare hands into the garbage and begin sorting it.
Every day, more than 2,300 tons of garbage is dumped in the Bhalswa landfill, which includes more than 50 football fields, the pile of which is higher than a 17-storey building. And every day, thousands of these informal workers climb steep slopes to choose the one who survives.
They are among the 20 million people in the world, in rich and poor countries, who play a key role in keeping cities clean alongside paid sanitation workers. But, unlike the employees of that municipality, they usually do not have the right to receive a coronavirus vaccine, they find it difficult to get the staff.
The epidemic has increased the risks faced by these informal workers. Few have their own protective gear or even clean water for hand washing, says Chitra Mukherjee of Chintan, a nonprofit environmental research group in New Delhi.
“If they are not vaccinated, then the cities will suffer,” Mukherjee said.
Manoara Begun, 46, who lives in a cardboard cabin behind a five-star hotel in the heart of New Delhi, is deeply saddened by this inequality. Chintan estimates that people like it save the local government more than $ 50 million each year, eliminating more than 900,000 tons of carbon dioxide by moving waste from landfills.
They are not considered “significant workers” yet, so they are not eligible for vaccinations.
Begun started an online petition asking for vaccines and asked, “Aren’t we human?”
Sanitation staff working in local government in South Africa և Z imbabwe are more likely to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine after health care workers than garbage collectors. At the Dandora landfill in Nairobi, Kenya, some garbage collectors who do not have the right to receive fire wear medical uniforms, which hospitals and health clinics reject, saying it especially protects them from the rainy season.
There is no doubt that these people are providing a significant service, says Louise Gibrunet, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who has studied the issue.
In Mexico, garbage collectors assist municipal garbage truck workers, often collecting garbage from neighborhoods not serviced by the authorities. Occupation is dangerous, և Injuries are common, so governments encourage them not to recognize them or to provide health benefits.
They are often already poor, moving to unfamiliar cities to sort garbage to make money, says Robin Effrey, a professor at the National Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. The fact that many of these workers in India belong to poor Muslim or Dalit communities, once known as “untouchables” within the country’s caste system, adds to a layer of prejudice.
“The vaccine is another very dramatic example of exclusion that prevailed before it reached the horizon of COVID-19,” said FF Effrey, co-author of a 2018 book on waste in India.
India has announced that from April 1, everyone over the age of 45 will be vaccinated. In private hospitals each shot costs 250 rupees ($ 3.45), but in public hospitals they are free.
As the epidemic pushed up the price of oil, it became cheaper to make new plastic than to recycle it. In many countries, closed borders have shut down recycling markets, reducing demand for recycled materials collected by workers.
In New Delhi, a pound of plastic bottles costs the equivalent of 11 US cents, which is half of the epidemic. Sahra Bano, 37, who lives near a landfill in Balsva and sells what she can recycle, says she used to earn about 400 rupees ($ 5) a day. It’s hard to get half of it now.
Toxic effluent from the landfill penetrates groundwater, so he has to spend 40 rupees (5 cents) a day on bottled water. The rest of his earnings go to food. He said he would have to collect and sell an extra ֆ 31 plastic bottle to make enough money to get the vaccine per shot.
“We are struggling to feed our families. How can we buy vaccines? ” he asks.
He would have to wait for days to get a free vaccine from a Vacc unloaded public hospital, է away from work every day without a desk. Moreover, the stigma attached to waste workers in India means that they often lag behind such establishments.
“They do not treat us well,” Bano said.
Illness is a disease that means going to the pharmacy, not the doctor.
If they are lucky, the person recovers, he says, adding: “If not, what can we do?”
Associated Press writers Tom Odulan in Nairobi; They contributed Farai Mutsakan in Harare, imb imbabwe, and Mogomoti Magomen in Johannesburg.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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