photos by Agata Fortunato
Established as African Medical and Research Foundation in 1957, Amref is the largest African NGO, with Headquarters is in Kenya and 12 branches in Africa, Europe, Canada and USA. Amref currently operated in 26 Sub-Saharan countries and has 172 projects focused on mothers’ care, children’s rights, prevention of diseases, access to sanitation services, drinking water supply, training of local health operators.
The surveys of key locations for collection services and the interviews realized in loco showed a strong contrast between the urban context, characterized by tourism and trade (Addis Ababa is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, a certain reference for the Sub-Saharan region, and Headquarters of the African Union), and the slums, residential areas characterized by an extremely high demographic density originated by the urbanization flows from the surrounding countryside towards the capital.
Besides acquiring information on the current waste collection system of Addis Ababa, the research focused on the working conditions of employees. Even if they do possess some basic equipment for personal protection, operators only wear light tracksuits – partially because of the high temperatures of the dry season – and are constantly exposed to dust, leaks and metals that could be harmful for health. The most burdensome part of their job, they reported, is the lifting of sacks from households to intermediate transfer zones because of the lack of proper vehicles (such as in the case of hand push carts that require the joint effort of three men).
Therefore there is an urgent need for improving the working conditions of the collectors who currently represent a disadvantaged portion of society not only because of the exposure to sanitary hazards, but because of low salaries and social consideration too.