Sanitation conditions in Haiti are gradually improving thanks to the efforts of aid workers following the earthquake that devastated the capital Port-au-Prince on 12 January 2010. However, progress has been slow and there are many obstacles that still need to be overcome.
As of 31 January 2010, the damage from the earthquake has left 112,405 dead, 196,595 injured and over 11 million people homeless, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The Haitian capital lacks sewerage infrastructure and the earthquake ruptured the city’s water lines. Garbage is also accumulating in the streets which is exacerbating the health risks.
The WASH Cluster is now reaching 500,000 people with 5 litres per person per day, according to the DFID situation report of 2 February 2010. With water provision now adequate, sanitation is the next priority. The cluster reports that 7,000 latrines are needed. A distribution plan for 1,169 latrine slabs has been agreed with partners in Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Jacmel.
UNICEF video on emergency water and sanitation in Haiti
The WASH Cluster Haiti Update of 30 January 2010 reports that 292 latrines have been completed or are under construction across the country, serving a potential 29,000 people assuming 1 latrine serves 100 people. The Sanitation Strategic Working Group composed of the WASH Cluster, UNICEF, Oxfam, Care, World Vision, ACF and ICRC are proposing the use of portable chemical toilets through a joint venture between a local sanitation firm and Armal Inc.
Action Against Hunger (ACF) is distributing potable water and food, although the recovery process is moving slowly, according to Lucile Grosjean from ACF in Haiti. “There is garbage everywhere,” Grosjean said.
The local government did not allow ACF or any organization to dig trenches in the Haitian capital’s central plaza, the Champs de Mars, said Grosjean. These trenches were to be used to dispose of the accumulating waste and human feces of between 20,000 and 25,000 people which have congregated in the area.
As a result, ACF has started to build above-ground latrines and began digging trenches to install the latrines in the Croix Deprez area, according to Grosjean.
At the same time, International Migration Organization (IOM) is distributing tents, hygiene kits, blankets, jerry cans, plastic sheeting, water bladders and water purifying kits, donated by the US, Japanese and Turkish governments. These efforts are expected to benefit some 26,000 people, IOM reported on its website.
Meanwhile, international aid organization Care is distributing hygiene kits and training survivors to purify contaminated water.
Care representatives are showing people how to use the purifying packets, since the objective is for Haitians to start carrying out the process by themselves.
“We are trying to identify people in neighborhoods or communities and train them so they can then go on to train more people,” the official added.
Care will be distributing PUR packets in the coming weeks together with large buckets where water can be purified. The organization will also provide other items such as soap and sanitary napkins.
During the emergency phase of the earthquake, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ensured a round-the-clock supply of water by trucks to Cité Soleil, the poorest area of the capital Port-au-Prince.
Removing the rubble
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is working to remove rubble and garbage, in an effort to improve general sanitation conditions.
UNDP is currently employing more than 1,000 Haitians to restart economic activity. After the emergency, the organization hired 700 inhabitants to remove rubble and rehabilitate essential social infrastructure, such as street repairs and electricity.
Prior to the earthquake UNDP had 400 employees carrying out an ecological project in Carrefour, a neighborhood located south of Port-au-Prince. Following the earthquake, the workers and trucks from this project started to remove the rubble and clean streets so other trucks carrying aid could go through, the official said.
In spite of the urgency to reorganize capital Port-au-Prince, resources continue to be limited. UNDP estimates that a US$41.3mn donation is needed for early recovery initiatives in Haiti. This is part of a nearly US$600mn flash appeal launched by UNDP on January 15. The organization estimates some US$58.8mn needs to be invested in water, sanitation and hygiene programs.
Using free transport provided by the government, more than 235,000 people have left Port-au-Prince and moved to rural neighborhoods where the effects of the earthquake were not so severe. Some 62,000 have relocated to Artibonite, for example. However, 800,000 people are still living in temporary camps in the capital, OCHA reported.
To avoid the spread of diseases, the government is planning to relocate another 400,000 from Port-au-Prince to new settlements which are being set up. The relocation program will be carried out in the coming weeks.
Haiti declared the search and rescue phase over on 23 January 2010 so international rescue teams are concentrating more on humanitarian aid for those who need it, instead of searching the rubble for survivors.
Multilateral entities such as the World Bank and IDB are already taking steps to waive debts. UK-based charity Oxfam has urged donor countries to have Haiti’s foreign debts cancelled. It called for about US$900mn owed to the UN, the World Bank and countries including the US, France, Canada and Brazil to be written off.
Go the Reliefweb site for latest Haiti earthquake water and sanitation updates.
Source: Indiana Corrales, BNamericas.com [subscription site], 25 Jan 2010 ; OCHA, 31 Jan 2010 ; DFID, 02 Feb 2010 ; ICRC, 29 Jan 2010