The business of emptying pit latrines and septic tanks begun on a small scale but has grown in leaps and bounds with mostly private gulper entrepreneurs taking the lead. The business however has a big share of challenges and hazardous events that have turned it into a risky venture.
Some of the challenges include indiscriminate disposals of solid waste, lack of access routes to empty the facilities (due to the congestion in informal settlements), very dry and compacted feacal sludge, workers involved in the emptying services rarely wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and use of inappropriate tools which often leads to leakages and spills in public places.
On Friday May 17 2019, some of our staff received valuable training on Sanitation Safety Planning (SSP) by Mr Abdullah Ali Halage, a lecturer at Makerere School of Public Health. The training, held at Lubigi Sewarage Treatment Plant was under the #GulpersTrainingProgram2019, equipped gulpers with skills in safety, health and hygiene.
SSP is a multiple-barrier approach combining treatment and non-treatment barriers to reduce risks to various exposure groups. Exposure groups in the gulping business include workers involved in collection of feacal sludge using both cesspool trucks and gulpers, workers involved in maintenance of transfer stations, residents or people involved in manual emptying, local communities living adjacent to the latrines being emptied, neighboring communities and users of the facilities being emptied.
By the end of the training, the participants were able to describe the key hygienic and safety measures required in the process of emptying sanitary facilities.
Mr James Wangwa who attended the training said that the training opened his eyes to see aspects of safety and hygiene that he had been taking for granted.
“I used to take off my gloves to pick phone calls while working but now I know that is something I never should have done. When you touch your phone, you transmit germs to it. Later when you take it back home, your child might play with it which also puts him at risk of contracting diseases,” Mr Wangwa explains.
Kiiza, another trainee, says that after receiving scientific knowledge on how to conduct risk assessment of the hazardous events during gulping, he would be able to apply key concepts of SSP during gulping.
But the meeting was not only a boiling pot of sanitation knowledge, SSG staff members were also able to interact with other people involved in the gulping business. Business cards were exchanged and meals shared after. It goes without saying that gulper entrepreneurs and operators will now be more united than ever. In fact, Prof Abdullah encouraged them to come up with a Sanitation Solutions Group committee that will help them enforce some of the commitments they came up with during the training.
Ms Jane Justine Mirembe, the Sanitation Solutions Group communication officer, says that the training came at the right time when the gulper business is soon to be officially recognized by the government.
“Gulpers have been operating but without clear licenses. When one wanted to register their business, there was no clear group under which it fell. However, the closest to it was ‘cleaning business’ and that is what licenses for those registered companies reads. But now KCCA had passed an ordinance and the right licensing is in its final stages. Having gulper operators pick skills in public sanitation safety therefore has come at the right time,” Ms Mirembe said.
Prof Abdullah noted that the trainees were very brilliant as they highly passed a test he gave them at the end of the day. He hopes to do follow ups on them by accompanying them to the field once in a while.
The training was organised by Water For People in conjuction with Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).