[Video] Covid-19 pandemic; a waste picker’s dilemma

Nearly all businesses have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health workers, security operatives and other small businesses are feeling the pinch.

But persons who pick waste on landfill sites and other dumpsites have a more dangerous task today than ever.

They have to deal with a great horde of waste some of which could be infectious.

At the Kpone landfill, they graze through the heaps of refuse daily to scavenge recyclable materials for sale.

72 year-old Gladys’ routine starts at 8am.

“Some of the pickers work in the morning. Others work in the afternoon. Those who are more energetic than I am, are able to pick waste all day,” she told 3news.com.

Before now, she would only wear a pair of gun boots and off she goes.

But the outbreak of Covid 19 means she has had to improvise: a mask and a pair of worn-out gloves would be added to her checklist.

She said, ” we now wear this mask to cover our mouth and nose and then add the gloves.”

“We also wear a pair of pants and then we get onto the landfill, because we have heard a lot about the disease and we are doing the best we can to protect ourselves,” the frail-looking Gladys said.

The mother of four tells me though it is scary to get at picking the waste, she has no option than to keep at it to earn a living.

“It is not a dignifying job at all. We are exposed to the disease, but there is not much we can do.”

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Gladys told 3news.com, “it’s difficult to have three meals a day – so I do this to feed myself. Anything that I can do at my age so that I do not have to be forced into thievery, I will manage it.”

The Kpone landfill sees several trucks offloading waste daily- some of which may be infectious because of the use of masks and other PPEs.

Public Health Director at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Florence Kuukyi says managing such waste needs a lot of tact and precaution.

“Elsewhere all homes dump their refuse in bin liners. So when the waste collectors come over, they will take out the bin liner with the trash and transfer to the dumpsites. That way the handlers wont come into direct contact with content of the bin bag,” Madam Kuukyi said.

But that is not the case in many households – and this leaves the pickers and other handlers exposed.

But 72-year-old Gladys who lives on less than 10 cedis a day, can only hope she does not contract the disease from the landfill.

She said,” it is only by Grace of God we are still alive. We are praying we do not contract this infection here. That’s why we are protecting ourselves.”

Her daughter who helps her carry the bag load of recyclable items to the weighing bay, says they are living it one day at a time.

For people like Gladys – it’s a fate they have accepted and would hope to ride out the storm.

By Komla Adom|3news.com|Ghana