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Covid-19 adds to perils of Pakistan's sanitary workers

Church and rights groups call for safety equipment for those engaged in cleaning sewers

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Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Covid-19 adds to perils of Pakistan's sanitary workers

Water and Sanitation Agency Lahore workers pull a Christian sanitary worker out of a manhole. (Photo supplied by Shafique Masih)

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Shafique Masih has to share his location while opening drains despite the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan.

The 43-year-old sanitary employee of the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) Lahore received hand sanitizer from his department this week as the national tally of Covid-19 cases surpassed 2,400. He opened eight clogged sewer lines on April 2. The toughest was at a road under construction in Johar Town.

“It took me 45 minutes to clear the pipes. Lifting the sludge is easier than pulling the bucket of bricks and rubble. The neighboring houses usually provide soap and water for a quick shower after ascending from the manhole. We change our slimy clothes after cleaning ourselves in the office,” Masih told UCA News.

“We are still awaiting safety kits and are scared inside. We love our lives too. Our officers scold Christian staff for being lazy if we don’t dive in the sewers. The Muslim workers register themselves for office work only.”

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