The shittiest job in the world?


November 19th, 2013

If you think your job is bad, just read this interview that landed on my desk today from our team in Kenya. It is of a man who empties toilets for a living.

More than 2.5 billion people live without sanitation. Open sewers overflowing with rubbish and human waste run through the centre of urban slums.

Practical Action is working in a slum in Nakuru. There are toilets there – just not as we know them. They are basically just pits which are used by 240 people every day. They fill up quickly!

Imagine having a toilet that you can’t flush and you just keep going and going?! That’s the smell. It’s hard to bear.

There’s only one way these toilets can get emptied

Nakuru Kenya urban slum sanitation toilet

“We have to pull out human waste from pit latrines…with our bare hands.” Anthony, waste cleaner, Nakuru, Kenya

People like Anthony have to empty the toilets – many of them with their bare hands. He has suffered abuse and discrimination as a result of doing the job. People in his community shun him and won’t go anywhere near him.

This is his story:

“We work on the pit latrines, where we use exhausters (pipes through which waste material is emitted) to pull out the human waste. The exhauster sucks out the lighter, biodegradable material. However, there are pieces of cloth, diapers and sanitary pads that cannot be removed using the exhaust pipe. They block the pipes and really slow us down. It forces us to go down into the latrine and pull out the human waste with our bare hands.

“Initially we always did this work with our bare hands and feet. The maggots and filth scared us. We were resented by the very people who created the mess but because the job was so filthy, nobody wanted to associate with us, so we worked at night like thieves.

“The money is not enough to take care of school fees, household needs, rent and all our other needs.”

Practical Action is working in Nakuru to improve the quality of life for slum communities of 190,000 people, by providing access to safe, hygenic toilets and hand washing facilities. And we’re working with Anthony and other pit emptiers to improve their health, enable them to provide an essential service to their community and raise their status.

This World Toilet Day I’m counting my blessings that I have such a fantastic job and if you are too please consider helping people like Anthony and his community to get access to better sanitation, improve their health and restore their dignity.

Please take action and help people access sanitation through a new appeal Practical Action have launched called ‘Safer Cities’. It is being backed by the UK government who will match fund donations pound for pound, helping us to do more vital work to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people living in slum communities.  This means that if you can give us £20 the Government will also give us £20, making your donation go even further!

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: By matching pound for pound all public donations to this appeal, we will help Practical Action provide safe drinking water and basic sanitation to over four thousand people living in slums in Bangladesh and Nepal. As well as day-to-day health benefits, this will reduce the spread of potentially deadly water-borne diseases that follow regular seasonal flooding. Better hygiene isn’t just vital to save lives, it means people can focus on earning money and taking care of their families.”

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