Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Dalberg Global Development Advisors

Sanitation Worker Safety: A 5-Million People Strong Blindspot In Sanitation

Wednesday 29 August | 17.00-17.45 | Room: FH Cabaret

The last few years have seen incredible progress on sanitation in India and globally, however, there has almost been no attention given to the plight of millions of sanitation workers who work across the value chain in extremely hazardous and inhumane conditions, directly handling human waste, dying in sewers or trapped in septic tanks, face health problems with lifespans 15 years less than the average. They work on informal labor contracts with less than minimum wage. They are socially ostracised due to the deeply entrenched cultural and caste divides with women being especially affected. Existing efforts are largely restricted to unidimensional “human-rights” solutions. 

In 2017, Dalberg Advisors, supported by the Gates Foundation, carried out a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study of sanitation workers that focused on identifying personas of workers, a nuanced description of problems, high-potential solutions, and strategies for India. In 2018, this study is being used to design several programs in the national government, by different cities, and private sector organizations including an innovation program launched in April 2018. 

This session will be used to showcase the problem, high-potential solutions including the Sanitation Worker Innovation Lab, forge strategic partnerships to address this issue in India and share lessons learnt.


Speakers: Nirat Bhatnagar (Partner, Dalberg Advisors) / Professor V.S. Chary (Administrative Staff College Of India)

The session will be structured into four segments


We will kickoff with a 15-minute presentation based on the study carried out by Dalberg Advisors on sanitation workers in India. Worker typologies, safety and livelihood risks, behavioural / social / infrastructural insights will be covered as well as a list of effective innovations that can be deployed.


The next 10 minutes will focus on sharing progress on the pilots that have been launched by Dalberg and other partners to help implement some of these innovations


The third segment will be 10 minutes long and will showcase 3 key asks from the global community of organizations interested in this issue


There will be 15 minutes of Q&A at the end