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Poor Egyptian quarry workers risk their lives

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Around 20,000 labourers quarry stone amid the mountains of the eastern part of Egypt’s Minya Governorate. The difficult and hazardous working conditions have caused hundreds of deaths and injuries.  In this film Mohammed Ali al-Din interviews and photographs workers who have been injured in the quarries.

Most deaths are caused by unsafe machinery and there is a lack of laws on workplace safety, say reports by the Nile Valley Foundation for Quarry Workers. Furthermore, the sector lacks any meaningful supervision to guarantee workers’ rights.

Injured quarry workers receive no automatic compensation or notable pensions. Quarry owners usually only provide limited compensation after local pressure is applied.

It is estimated that there are 700 registered quarries in eastern Minya. There are also dozens of unregistered quarries.

The majority of quarry workers come from villages to the east of the river Nile. These villagers are often poor and unemployed, and there is not enough farmland to go around. They therefore resort to this dangerous profession to earn money.

In a study by Egypt’s Assiut University on the risks of developing the lung disease pneumoconiosis in the quarries of northern Minya, the concentration of the silica-containing dust that causes the condition was found to be higher than permitted. This may significantly contribute to the disease’s development.

A study by the Nile Valley Foundation for Quarry Workers raised a further terrible fact: 23 per cent of Minya quarry workers are children.

This article was originally produced by SciDev.Net’s Middle East & North Africa desk.

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