Last week, a standard early-fall storm swept through the city of Port-au-Prince. In a span of 10 minutes, the strong winds damaged thousands of tents, injured many, and killed at least 5 people. With most of the quake's 1.5 million homeless survivors still living in sprawling tent cities, the heavy rainfall left them at a dangerous public health crossroad. The precarious water supply is forcing many to drink from the rainwater flowing from gutters and sewers. Hence, more people will be fighting deadly waterborne diseases.
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.
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.
Having grown up in Haiti, I understand the acute dangers of living without clean water. I remember vividly the small worms that we had to remove by hand in the water buckets in our house. The frequent trips to the local clinic were a constant reminder that each sip of water was a risk. As a result, ensuring that water is safe, secure, and sustainable for my younger Haitian brothers and sisters has always been a personal and professional priority. International Action has granted me the opportunity to do just that.
Early this morning a homeless Haitian boy kneeled by an open drainage ditch to clean himself up. Due to the increased rainfall experienced during the rainy season, the drainage ditch is at the brink of overflow, allowing this boy to wash his hands and face with its waters. This water is contaminated.
The Communities in Schools Dallas Region (CISDR) is a stay-in-school program, founded in 1985.CISDR partnered with the Exxon Mobil program Girls Exploring Math and Science.The two groups will participate in the 2010 TEDxKids event. One of the goals of the event was to have the participating students complete a service learning project. These students chose to support the Haitian De-Worming project because they felt they could make a positive impact in the lives of many Haitians. They rallied together and created a penny drive in order to purchase and ship albendazole tablets to Haiti. Their tagline was simple: one penny is enough to rid one person of debilitating intestinal worms. There campaign was so successful, that they raised $1816.29!
The director of the Jalousie local health clinic reported a noticeable drop in chronic diarrhea cases in the two months after an IA Clean Water Campaign installed a LF 1500 Chlorinator in May 2006, and proposed a joint study to document the impact of the new chlorinator.
There is a way to disinfect water using only sunlight and plastic bottles. Contaminated water is put into clear plastic bottles and exposed to strong full sun for 6 hours. Placing the bottles on a roof for six hours will do the job.
In July, International Action installed chlorinators in three schools providing clean and safe water to 1,633 children. International Action's intervention is a miracle according to Dr. Rémy, the pediatrician in charge of the schools for the African Methodist Episcopal Church Service and Development Agency (AME-SADA). Before the installations, children would go all day without water and sometimes faint to the dismay of their teacher. Now the chlorinators will provide them with clean water and give them the energy to focus and be livelier in class.
This month the focus is on schools, and providing clean water to students in need. We are working with AME-SADA, an organization that works to improve schools and nutrition centers. Certain schools do not have any chance to benefit from our chlorinators because of lack of infrastructure or water supply, but we have found three schools where installations will be possible. A pediatrician working for AME-SADA, tells us that the water makes the children sick with typhoid, malaria, and diarrhea. After we installed a chlorinator, these illnesses have evaporated. Dr. Remy claims that it's the highest satisfaction the students have ever had during the 2007-2008 school year. Neighbors are amazed with our work.
In Port-au-Prince, Dalebrun and our team of plumbers go around our circuit of neighborhoods to check the chlorinator installations and supply water boards with chlorine tablets; this month the team also brought with them boxes of de-worming albendazole pills.
Recently two members of our Washington Staff – Youngmin Chang and Amélie Cardon – visited several of the poorest and most dangerous parts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their purpose was to see our De-Worming Haiti Campaign in action.
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.
I have three children: the first one is 12, the second is 9, and the youngest is 4. My two youngest had diarrhea very often. I visited a lot of hospitals but was unable to find a cure. Finally I visited a pediatrician; he examined all three and revealed that the kids have worms.The treatments prescribed did not give good results whereas the albendazole pills distributed by International Action have been taken by all my children, and now they do not have diarrhea anymore. Many of my neighbors make the same observation.