A clean year

Muna Al-Fuzai

Every New Year, people exchange cards and messages with their friends and families. But we rarely think of those who keep our streets clean – the cleaners who do a lot for us daily throughout the year for little money and appreciation. To all street cleaners, I wish a Happy New Year! I wish you all a better year, and this article describes your condition and my wishes for you in 2020.

The cleaners on the streets work day and night in various places and maintain the clean image of Kuwait. They come to Kuwait through cleaning companies that contract them for meager wages despite the difficult weather.

We see cleaners all day and night in their yellow clothes – they clean the streets and work from dawn until late at night. These are indeed long hours and in different types of weather conditions – extreme heat, cold and rain. Yet, I am surprised by some people who do not see the important work that is being done by street cleaners, and sadly they hunt the opportunity to criticize them or offend them, knowing that if they stopped working for two days, garbage would accumulate in the streets.

I believe that the root of the problem of hygiene in streets and public places is not only in the cleaning process or the cleaners, but the ill manner of people and permissive behaviors and habits of throwing trash or cigarettes from car windows or leaving leftovers in gardens and beaches, as well as neglecting the importance of segregating waste in different boxes.

These are among the habits that are hostile to the cleanliness of public places, so cleaners will continue to suffer a lot, especially during the so-called national holidays, when too much rubbish is thrown and large quantities of water is wasted.

Therefore, the solution lies in the ability to effect change in the behavior of people, and this change comes by increasing environmental awareness and constantly reminding the people of the necessity of discarding waste in the right places designated for it through large and clear warning signs, especially in public parks and streets, while providing a sufficient number of collection containers.

Imposing fines in the event of a violation is important through field monitors. This will lead to good results. In fact, many countries in the world have implemented such punishment by imposing heavy financial penalties on litterers and have achieved great success, such as Singapore, which is one of the cleanest countries in the world because of its laws, in addition to the high level of environmental awareness.

Cleaners’ salaries in Kuwait are very low, so kindness of people by giving them a little money or clothes will bring happiness to their hearts. Voluntary campaigns are carried out by the Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society and a few NGOs, and some local banks hold annual campaigns to distribute winter clothes, hats and gloves to cleaning and construction workers on the streets and at their workplaces.

These are good efforts, but they need more. The government must improve the conditions of these workers. Workers have to be given specific equipment like masks and gloves to protect them from diseases and germs in the garbage. Also, the cold winter needs heavy clothes, especially since these workers start their work from dawn.

Can you imagine if the cleaners are not present? Garbage will accumulate and bad odors will spread due to the non-removal of waste, and diseases and harmful insects will spread too. All this because of a lack of sanitation workers, who maintain the country’s hygiene and health. To these workers, I say Happy New Year, and I hope that your conditions will improve in the New Year.

By Muna Al-Fuzai
muna@kuwaittimes.net