Institutionalising Health Camps for Sanitation Workers

Niladri Chakraborti, Monisha Ravi, Vinitha Murukesan | 2023


Sanitation workers provide an invaluable public service, but the nature of their work exposes them to various occupational and environmental hazards that put their health at risk. In many places, sanitation workers, especially septage workers, are seen working without proper safety gear. As a result, they become vulnerable to toxic substances, biohazard waste and lethal gases, which makes it essential for them to be able to access affordable healthcare and emergency services. Women sanitation workers also face health issues as a result of handling heavy pushcarts for waste collection and managing and segregating the waste. Despite government mandates and schemes, sanitation workers lack access to or are unaware of these services.

The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS)-led Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme (TNUSSP) supports the Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN) in making improvements along the entire urban sanitation value chain. A key focus of the programme has been to enable Urban Local Bodies to strengthen the delivery of periodic and quality medical check-ups and treatment options for the sanitation workforce. Since 2017, TNUSSP has been partnering with local hospitals to provide periodic health camps for sanitation workers and their families living in and around the town panchayats (village or town councils) of Periyanaicken-Palayam and Narasimhanaicken-Palayam in the State’s Coimbatore district. In 2022, TNUSSP’s Coimbatore team played a pivotal role in the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between four town panchayats and a local hospital, to provide regular and free health camps, a milestone for the organization in ensuring access to preventive healthcare for sanitation workers and their families.