Rag pickers are people who collect recyclable and reusable materials from mixed wastes in cities. A cross sectional survey on socio economic and health status among randomly selected rag pickers in the dump site of Mekelle city, Ethiopia was done during 2019. The study showed that all rag pickers were males with age of 19 to 25 years and 60% of them were educated up to secondary level. They worked continuously for 12 hours, 2 to 3 days per week, without using any personal protective equipment. They earned an average of 400 Ethiopian birr per week. The study showed that, of the 80% of the rag pickers who suffered from allergy symptoms, 70% had skin rashes, 66.66% asthma, 63.33% cough and 60% eye sickness, obviously some possessing more than one. Further all (100%) of the rag pickers were affected by cuts and lacerations, 63.33% injured from fire, 13.33% from dog bites, 76.66% suffered from respiratory problems, 73.33% gastrointestinal problems, 40% musculoskeletal problems and 40% nail infection. In total 86.66 % of rag pickers had one health problem or other, the study revealed. Results of statistical analyses indicated significantly higher incidence of health diseases among illiterate rag pickers and among those who spent more days in picking activity. Considering the services by rag pickers like reducing waste burden to the municipality and protection of the environment, the study highlights certain measures that shall be taken by the MSE and the Municipality for improving their heath and financial position.
Keywords: Mekelle city, rag pickers, health problems, allergy, cuts and lacerations