ITN-BUET won the ‘Sanitation Workers Research Award’ in the Water and Health Conference 2022, held during October 24-28, 2022 organized by the Water Institute of University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. The award recognizes studies that show excellence, relevance, and impact in sanitation worker-related research and is announced at the UNC Water and Health Conference every year. The conference is held annually to advance the goals of commitment to improving public health by achieving universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) services. The 2022 Conference explored the latest learnings around WaSH by gathering eminent policymakers, practitioners, and researchers in the field through plenaries, side events, verbal presentations, and poster presentations.
The award was given in ‘Best Original Research Abstract’ category for the paper ‘Barriers to using PPEs by waste and sanitation workers in seven Bangladeshi cities’. This paper explored the barriers and suggestions from the waste and sanitation workers and their managers for improvement in using the PPEs, particularly reflective apron/jackets, gumboots, hand gloves, and masks, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sanitation workers provide an essential public service, but this is often at the cost of their health and dignity, while enduring poor working and living conditions and employment insecurity. There are many knowledge gaps in these areas, so it is crucial to conduct research and generate evidence that helps us develop policies and initiatives that help improve the situation for sanitation workers and protect their rights. The research team consisted of Mahbub Ul Alam, Mehdi Hasan, Dewan Muhammad Shoaib, Kazy Farhat Tabassum, Makfie Farah, Alauddin Ahmed, and was led by Prof. Dr. Tanvir Ahmed, Professor of Civil Engineering and Director, ITN-BUET. Prof. Dr. Tanvir Ahmed received the award on behalf of ITN-BUET and presented the work in a special side event.
Dr. Tanvir Ahmed, was also a panelist for the plenary session on ‘Driving WASH Sector Strengthening: Developing the Capacity to Innovate’, moderated by Mr. Jan Willem Rosenboom (Sr. Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Other panelists in this session were: Ms. Norhan Sadik (Program Analyst, Water Global Practice, World Bank), Ms. Eva Muhia (Director at Varet Products, Founder of Global Sanitation Environmental Projects), Eng. Jonathan Kampata (Engineer, Water, Sanitation and Water Resources Management). In this session, Dr. Ahmed stated that, in most cases, capacity building activities in water supply and sanitation do not always target the relevant stakeholders, particularly the service providers, whose role is important but not always acknowledged. He added that capacity-building packages are not always well-designed or tailored to the requirements of the target group, and this can impede the desired results. As the majority of innovation originates in the private sector, he continued, we must concentrate our efforts on enhancing the entrepreneurial capacity of the private sector in order to achieve meaningful outcomes. Dr. Tanvir suggested to develop customized capacity building packages for the different tiers of stakeholders and emphasized on innovative follow-up of capacity-building activities for greater impact and long-term sustainability. A recording of the panel session is available at: https://youtu.be/quAG1XMMC_E?t=1920
ITN-BUET also presented a poster titled ‘Evaluation of occupational health and safety intervention for waste and sanitation workers in Bangladesh during COVID-19’. This research conducted a randomized cluster trial to evaluate the impact of the intervention, which included training and PPE distribution, in improving occupational health and safety-related knowledge, attitude, and practices of the workers in 10 cities in Bangladesh. A related paper on occupational health and safety of waste and sanitation workers has recently been published by the research team in the ‘Hygiene and Environmental Health Advances’ journal (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heha.2022.100022)
Mr. Alauddin Ahmed, Project Manager, ITN-BUET also attended the conference and gave a presentation on gender mainstreaming in WASH in Bangladesh in the side-event titled ‘Tackling Gender Challenges in Urban Sanitation: What Has Worked?’ on October 25, 2022. He talked about the policy and regulatory framework, research and capacity-building initiatives, and the Government’s strategies for gender mainstreaming in the context of Bangladesh. He highlighted the constitutional provisions for gender equality and mentioned the uniqueness of the country in devising a separate strategy for menstrual hygiene management. Ongoing research of ITN-BUET with Emory University focusing gender empowerment known as MUSE was also presented by him. He concluded presenting the gradually progress on gender development index of Bangladesh.