Christian Sanitation Workers at Risk Amid COVID-19 Lockdown in Pakistan
03/27/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Pakistan’s primarily Christian sanitation workforce remains at work while the rest of the country goes on lockdown amid the global COVID-19 crisis. Working with little to no safety equipment in normal times, these sanitation workers are forced to risk exposure to COVID-19 or lose the meager and demeaning jobs their families depend on.
“I am very worried about them,” Father Saleh Diego, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Karachi, told Asia News. “Sanitation workers are the most neglected and marginalized group in our society.”
According to Pakistani Christian leaders, Christians make up between 80% to 90% of the country’s sanitation workforce due to widespread religious discrimination. Job advertisements for sanitation positions, considered the lowest and filthiest of jobs, often state that only non-Muslim applicants will be considered for sanitation positions.
While doctors in Punjab refuse to go to work because of a lack of masks and other protective gear, sanitation workers continue their work across the country. Much of this work is done by hand with little to no protective gear.
“We see them in the streets without masks or gloves,” Father Diego reported to Asia News. “They clean toilets, empty pits and septic tanks, clean sewers, and manholes.”
According to Sooba Bhatti, a Christian activist from Hyderabad, “These people face a serious predicament and put their lives at risk. Even women sanitation workers perform their tasks without gloves, protective masks, and even shoes.”
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has recently passed 1,100. There have also been at least eight COVID-19 related deaths. While most of the country has been placed on lockdown, Christian sanitation workers are being asked, once again, to risk their lives to preform demeaning and dangerous work.
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