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Municipal Workers Use Bare Hands to Sort Hazardous Waste

In Mbarara Municipality, the cleaners, and garbage collectors at Kekombe garbage dumping site in Kakiika division use bare hands and sometimes light polyethylene material to sort garbage. The unsorted garbage is usually a collection of rotting food waste, broken glass, plastics, used needles, dangerous metals, wood and sometimes liquid waste, among others.
Kijungu one of the dirtiest areas in Kakooba division Mbarara Municipality

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persons employed to work in various towns across South Western Uganda are exposed to workplace injuries and illness, due to the lack of personal protective equipment, Uganda Radio Network has confirmed. 

The most affected are those that are deployed in cleaning services in the areas of Mbarara Municipality, Ibanda Municipality, Kabale Municipality, Ntungamo Municipality, Rubaare Town Council and Isingiro Town Council.  Their work involves getting in contact with waste products on the street and in drainage channels in municipalities and town councils.

In Mbarara Municipality, the cleaners, and garbage collectors at Kekombe garbage dumping site in Kakiika division use bare hands and sometimes light polyethylene material to sort garbage. The unsorted garbage is usually a collection of rotting food waste, broken glass, plastics, used needles, dangerous metals, wood and sometimes liquid waste, among others.

The waste usually emits a very strong stench of decomposition. However, despite the risks involved, the workers do not have access to high-visibility clothing, safety helmets, gloves, safety footwear, eye protection goggles, or garments that would protect them against health and safety risks.

As a result, they are exposed to injuries and illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, physical and electrical hazards.

Workers who talked to Uganda Radio Network observed that they are equally bothered and fear for their lives. Ugandan labor laws require employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. However, most workers told URN that their plea to employers for protective gear have fallen on deaf ears.

Idah Matsiko, one of the cleaners faults authorities for remaining adamant while their labourers continue to operate in deplorable conditions.

Polycarp Manganya, another concerned worker says that they are usually pierced by sharp objects while sorting garbage. He is worried that if the state of affairs doesn't change, they will be exposed to deadly infections. Manganya notes that he has already developed breathing complications which he was told were a result of exposure to polluted gases.

Mbarara Municipality Health Inspector Simon Balyeimeki says that authorities are equally concerned. He explains that they have already ordered for protective gear to cater for all the workers especially those in garbage collection services.

Amos Katureebe, the chairperson of the health services committee at Mbarara Municipal Council told our reporter that his committee has already filed a report with recommendations to the office of the municipal health inspector and asked for quick intervention.

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In Kabale Municipality workers are given surgical gloves once in a while when there is a function or when important guests are expected in the town. The situation is similar in Ibanda Municipality.

Kabale Municipality Health Inspector Andrew Baija says that they gave out gumboots to the cleaners but some either sold them off or choose not to use them. 

William Ndyanabo, the Ibanda Municipality Health Inspector says that the municipality had not secured resources but plans are underway to equip workers with protective gear.

In Isingiro town council, workers have only gumboots but operate without gloves. Isingiro town Emanuel Karanzi told our reporter that they have given out only gumboots but also plan to have cleaners given strong and long lasting gloves.

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