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One of the underlying issues posed by the COVID-19 crisis apart from loss of lives and scarcity of medical facilities is the large amount of medical waste being generated due to use public use of masks and COVID-19 protection gears.

The waste is posing serious health threats to municipal cleaners, a key group of frontliners who have been for years looked down upon both professionally and socially.

Although they work tirelessly to ensure hygiene for others, their health risk has mostly gone unaddressed since the start of the crisis.

Which is why, United Nations Development Programme has partnered with multi-sectoral civic platform Healthy Bangladesh and research activist centre PPRC to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) support to nearly 3000 municipal cleaners in 16 Paurashavas and 1 City Corporation of Bangladesh.

UNDP Resident Representative Sudipto Mukerjee said, while the coronavirus pandemic has affected life for nearly everyone, frontline workers, including the municipal cleaners are fearlessly working to protect us and provide us with essential services.

“Historically, despite the immense importance of municipal waste removal and safe disposal, our sanitation workers across South Asia were both professionally and socially looked down upon.”

“Although long overdue, let us seize this momentous opportunity to completely change our values and ways of thinking, so that from this point onwards, we become far more respectful for these social care givers,” he added.

The move comes under the banner of “The Clean Cities” initiative of Healthy Bangladesh, which was launched on June 25 at Maulavibazar paurashava. On Sunday, PPEs were distributed in Noakhali and Patuakhali paurashavas.

Convener of Healthy Bangladesh Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman inaugurated the programme in a virtual session while Sudipto Mukerjee, UNDP Resident Representative in Bangladesh attended the event as a special guest.

Mayors, Councilors and city level stakeholders of both the municipalities attended the PPE distribution programme from their respective towns. The organizers thanked UNDP for partnering on this important initiative.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman urged the Mayors and their municipal cleaners to lead the efforts towards achieving a Hygienic Bangladesh by ensuring cleanliness of their respective towns.

"Covid-19 has thrust hygiene at the forefront of the health agenda. Municipal cleaners are an under-recognized frontline workforce in this essential public response. Keeping our cities clean is key to ensuring a Hygienic Bangladesh," Dr Rahman said at the event.

“As an extremely modest beginning, UNDP in close partnership with the Government of Bangladesh, City Corporations and Paurashavas as well as with other development partners and citizen groups is providing PPEs and other necessary items to ensure their occupational safety,” UNDP Resident Representative Sudipto Mukherjee said.

Honorable Mayors of Noakhali and Patuakhali Paurashavas reiterated their commitment to this goal and appreciated the support of Healthy Bangladesh, PPRC and UNDP. They expressed the hope to further develop this partnership.

The PPE providing initiative is being implemented at Pabna, Bogura, Chapainababganj, Dhamrai, Jhenaidha, Khagrachari, Kushtia, Manikganj, Mongla Port, Moulovibazar, Nilphamari, Noakhali, Patuakhali, Panchagoar, Shariatpur, Satkhira and Sylhet City Corporation.

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