The great American novelist and activist, James Baldwin, once said that we must look unblinkingly at the circumstances, confront the constructed reality, face the tears of the wounded, and harness ourselves to a great collective effort toward justice.
Today, International Action met with DINEPA water department officials and UN WASH Cluster partners to strategize a coordinated response to the spreading cholera epidemic. To combat this fatal waterborne disease, International Action plans to supply and install 50 chlorinators and 8 water tanks throughout Artibonite Department, the epicenter of the outbreak. Nine hundred chlorine tablets have also been released by the organization to the Haitian water agency and other NGOs addressing the public health crisis.
A deadly cholera outbreak has erupted across Haiti's Artibonite Department, claiming at least 150 lives and sickening more than 1,500 others. The first registered cholera epidemic in Haiti in decades is the worst public health catastrophe since the January 12 earthquake.
In response to the growing demands for clean water from the internally displaced people living in camps throughout Port-au-Prince, International Action has launched a new initiative to fulfill the urgent requests for intervention. We purchased a new water truck, 1,000-gallon capacity, which will serve several camps, clinics, and schools in the metropolitan Port-au-Prince area.
DINEPA official checks out IA tank and chlorinator
The National Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation (DINEPA), in collaboration with the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), invited International Action and other non-profit entities in Haiti to participate in an exhibition and panel discussion to commemorate World Water Day 2011. The event dedicated to water challenges in Haiti, featured International Action’s water tank and chlorinator and its dedication to make clean water a reality for the most impoverished people in Haiti.
Last week, I returned from conducting a 6-month post-quake assessment of our clean water program in Haiti. What I saw was truly heart-wrenching. Vast stretches of displaced persons camps and countless makeshift shelters on the street. People collecting filthy grey-water from trash-strewn drainage ditches. Open sewers.
Women and children walk long distances for International Action-supplied clean water
Almost 5 months after the quake, Port-au-Prince's public water infrastructure still lies in disarray. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, while diarrhea cases have remained low in the city, limited water supply for affected communities and displaced persons camps has translated into inadequate quantities of water for even basic hygiene. Many camps have already seen a rise in skin diseases.
To further the "return home" goal, International Action installed two chlorinators in the neighborhood of Cité-aux-Cayes while DINEPA has worked to restore water there. Also, a school with over 200 students in Cité Soleil received a 150-gallon water tank.
We have been championing cooperation among NGOs for some time in Haiti; it is a necessity to work with Haitian communities and other NGOs to make lasting change in Haiti. Cooperation has been built into our work in Haiti from the beginning. For every chlorinator we have installed, we coordinated with the involved Haitian community, DINEPA, and often with other NGOs. We then took this model of cooperation to our Cholera Prevention Consortium last year, in which International Action and 35 different groups disbursed chlorine to over 400,000 Haitians.