Health status and occupational risks in informal waster workers

Kathmandu– Solid waste management is a major environmental and public health issue in Nepal, in particular in the Kathmandu Valley where 620 tonnes of solid wastes are produced daily. The municipalities are responsible for waste management, but they have not implemented robust waste management systems thus far.

This has led to an increase in formal waste workers (IWWs), i.e. people who work in waste recovery activity outside any official framework. These workers face significant occupational health risks (e.g. cuts, bites, infections, effects of chemical exposure). In Nepal, data is scarce regarding this population and their health risks.

In this context, MEDECINS has come up with a scientific report on health status and occupational risks in informal waster workers in Nepal (see the info graph).

In the research, in total, 1280 informal waste workers participated in the questionnaire. Two withdrew during Participation and therefore their data was deleted, resulting in entries for 1278 IWWs.

Although non-response rates were not collected, the enumerators reported that most of the IWWs approached agreed to participate in the survey.

 All respondents were surveyed in Province no.3 (Central) with the majority (95%) in the Kathmandu Valley and 5% in Nuwakot (Sisdole landfill sites). Of note, only a small number of IWWs work on the Sisadole landfill sites in the Nuwakot area (estimated to be around 200 IWWs), explaining the low sample size in Nuwakot, Bhaktapur site was latterly added, in order to achieve the target sample size.

51.9% were Nepalese and 48 % Indian, thus showing the very high percentage of Indians among IWWs. Almost 80% were male. The results show a young workforce with 75.1% of the participants between 18 and 39 years. The age distribution of the male and female IWWs is fairly similar, expect for the youngest and oldest age ranges.

 The majorities 77.5% of respondents were married, but only 36.7% live with their family and 38.9% live alone, suggesting that a fair number of workers live away from their families. Over half of the sample 51.3% received no education and only 49.5% can read and write.

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