City-level quantification and profiling of sanitation workers

WaterAid/James Kiyimba

Sanitation workers provide a valuable service, but are an unseen and unrecognised labour force, often working in environments that endanger their lives. Issues affecting them are excluded from documentation, sanitation legislation and overall sanitation planning agendas. We are seeking to change this by raising their profile.

Organisations have begun to capture the harsh realities of sanitation work, highlighting their plight beyond deaths or injuries – but more needs to be done. In many settings data are scarce on the number of workers, their working conditions, modes of employment and legal status. The sanitation workforce must be quantified and profiled to clearly define who the workers are and who their employers are, and determine their workplace health and safety. 

This study aimed to scope out options for how the importance of sanitation workers can be highlighted, and how their integration with an established method for city-level sanitation assessments, such as the shit flow diagram (SFD) process, might help.

This report presents options for how to quantify and profile sanitation workers through assessments of workers at city level. The authors suggest scope for a sanitation worker assessment, the dimensions to be assessed, questionnaires to generate data on these different dimensions, and possible options for presentation of both quantitative and qualitative data. The focus of the latter is on visually informative infographics  – a widely recognised strength of the SFD graphic.

Top image: Sanitation worker Julius Chisengo, 49, stands outside a latrine after emptying and cleaning it in Kigambon-Umawa, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, June 2019.