By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
Scavengers in Hulumi dumpsite, by Idu rail station, Federal Capital Territory have received Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) worth millions of naira from a non governmental Organization, Initiative for Advancement of Waste Management in Africa (W.A.S.T.E Africa).
The donations is part of a two day training aimed at rehabilitation and improvement of the living standard of over 10,000 waste pickers in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
The initiative tagged ‘Protecting 10,000 Initiative’ was packaged with free basic first aid training, financial literacy training aimed to prepare them to have access to good medication and decent accommodation.
At the Hulumi dumpsite, over 520 scavengers benefitted from the programme which is a continuous one across the FCT.
To encourage culture of savings, Bank account was also opened for the beneficiaries with Jaiz Bank.
Speaking to journalists during the programme, the Project Manager WASTE Africa, Ms. Odhikori Juliet expressd grave concern over the living and working condition of the waste pickers which she described as deplorable.
According to her ”We did epic research and we discovered that there are over 10,000 waste pickers in Abuja,.
”So, we came up with this initiative to reach out to at least 10,000 waste pickers in Abuja. We realized that most of the waste recovery and recycling that is happening here is done by the waste pickers.
”But they are the most oppressed in Abuja, they are most marginalized. Their living and working condition are deplorable. You can’t picture it at all.
”So, we decided to a kind of give them a financial literacy training, tell them the important of saving and then we are going to open bank accounts for them. So as they pick wastes, they will have a kind of saving, get better accommodation.
”And we will also be providing them with PPEs and identity cards. So if they are moving around the city, they will have a means of identification, to show their profession, which we go a long way to protect them from harassment.
”We realized that many of them have injuries with various degree of cut from their working activities. That is basically the objective of this initiative. And it is also a way of fulfilling part of our social responsibility to them.”
”Their value is immense, if you look around you see the heaps of plastic bottles, metal, everything, they pick them. You realize that if these wastes are not recovered, the whole city of Abuja would become uninhabitable.
”You know Nigerians have the culture of consumption of beverages and can foods; these things are littered all over the places.
”They are living in shanties inside the dumpsite and in close proximity to dumpsite. And there are over 8,000 waste pickers here in this dumpsite alone.
”And they are exposed to cuts, exposed to difference kinds of injuries. And most of them don’t even know the importance of basic first aid.
”Now, one of the things we are doing is to partner with Dagomo Foundation to come around today to gave them free basic first aid training and do a kind of health check on them as well.
”And one other thing we found is, because they are living in this kind of environment, they are used to it, they are comfortable with it. And telling them the environment is not safe, they don’t feel it anymore. ”We are teaching them the importance of wearing the safety boot, hand glove, reflective jacket.”
Speaking on the initiative, Mr. Aliyu Buhari, Head, Aggregators and Clusters Unit, MSMEs Department, Jaiz Bank said the bank is involved in the project to enhance sustainability and environmental health.
“We are trying cluster model to package a financial model that will support them.
Speaking on behalf of the recipients, Chairman, Scavengers, Hulumi Dumpsite, Abubakar Saleh commended the organizers.
He said their health and finances will improve with the awareness created.
The representative of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Pai, a Deputy-Director, commended WASTE Africa for the initiative.
He said it is in line with ongoing efforts by the government to make the FCT healthy for habitation.
Protective items distributed include safety boots, hand gloves, reflective jackets etc.
The programme was supported by Chanja Datti, Coca-Cola, amongst others.