A multinational all-formats AP team delivered a compelling account of vaccine inequity in India, Africa and Latin America, exposing the plight of an estimated 20 million informal waste workers who keep cities clean and divert waste away from landfills but are not yet eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine.
Health and science reporter Ghosal was exploring vaccine policy in India when he was stuck by the sheer invisibility of the scavengers who live on the fringes, far from the public discourse around who should be prioritized for vaccination. Ghosal worked with photographer Qadri and video journalist Ganguly for on-the-ground reporting at the massive garbage mountain on the outskirts of New Delhi. They came back with moving personal stories that added depth to the narrative, with powerful visuals laying bare the workers’ experience amid grinding poverty.
To amplify the work, Ghosal reached out to colleagues across Africa and in Latin America, who shared similar accounts of exclusion and deep-rooted inequalities in access to health care. They delivered, adding to a story that included contributions by Brian Inganga and Tom Odula in Nairobi, Farai Mutsaka in Zimbabwe, Mogomotsi Magome in Johannesburg, Marco Ugarte in Mexico City, Ariana Cubillos in Venezuela and Manish Swarup in New Delhi.
The arresting all-formats package highlighted how the pandemic has exacerbated existing income inequalities. The words and images of trash pickers wearing discarded protective suits in Nairobi, and scavengers plunging their bare hands into thousands of tons of garbage in New Delhi, reveal a community of marginalized workers who struggle to get vaccinated despite providing a service many consider essential.