At a glance: Haiti

Young people enlisted to help meet sanitary needs in quake-stricken Haiti

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0238/Noorani
People crowd around a water vendor in a slum area in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Residents must often walk several kilometres for water, and sanitation facilities are still limited for people displaced by the earthquake.

By Thomas Nybo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 22 February 2010 – Sanitation is among the most urgent concerns in Haiti following January’s earthquake. UNICEF estimates that overall, 1.1 million displaced people require emergency latrines. The agency and its partners plan to install over 10,000 latrines in the short term and another 20,000-plus within six months.

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To help achieve this goal, UNICEF has enlisted its non-governmental partner, the Haitian Out-of-School Youth Livelihood Initiative (known by its French acronym, IDEJEN), to construct 1,000 sanitary blocks, which include latrines, showers and handwashing facilities.

IDEJEN was launched in Haiti seven years ago to provide education and vocational job training for at-risk young people between the ages of 15 and 24. One of its staff, Guerda Previlon, recently showed visitors the new sanitary facilities being constructed at a camp for people displaced by the quake.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0216/Noorani
In Port-au-Prince, members of the UNICEF-supported Haitian Out-of-School Youth Livelihood Initiative build latrines for people displaced by the earthquake.

‘We’ll take care of everything’
"What you are seeing here is a sanitary block made by IDEJEN youth," she said, pointing to a unit with three latrines, which will also have a hand-washing station and a shower. "We'll take care of everything, in terms of management of the sanitary block, in terms of management of the excreta and in terms of evacuation of used water.”

Ms. Previlon noted that IDEJEN will also provide education on hygiene and sanitation at the camp level.

The initiative has enlisted 1,200 young participants to build the sanitary blocks. Fidel Frantzy, 22, is one of them. Before arriving at IDEJEN, he had trouble reading and faced limited job prospects because of his lack of education. Since then, he has become proficient in reading, writing and mathematics, and also learned the trade of carpentry, which he's putting to use building the latrines.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0239/Noorani
A girl washes clothes by the gate of a collapsed building in a makeshift settlement for displaced survivors of the 12 January earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

Service to the community
"I know that people need this service," Mr. Frantzy said of the latrines. "This is a rewarding project for me, because we are helping people who urgently need toilets.

“You know, it's not the only sanitation project we're working on,” he added. “We have a team of youth that clean the streets around the camps, too. I'm so proud to be a part of this effort in Haiti – to help other young people and the community."

IDEJEN will install the first sanitary block in a camp within the next week. The units have a lifespan of about two years.

Closing the sanitation gap
"UNICEF provided the financial support to build the latrines, and also they will provide some training," said Ms. Previlon.

As the rainy season draws near in Haiti, health experts are warning of a potential large-scale outbreak of diarrhoea, due to overcrowding and poor sanitation in makeshift settlement sites. The work of IDEJEN is reducing that threat by helping to close the sanitation gap for children and families in desperate need.

"We are so proud to come with this product. It is new in Haiti and it is made by the youth," Ms. Previlon said, adding that the effort is changing the way people look at young people: "The community thinks that youth in difficult situations cannot do anything. Now we want to show they have the capacity, they have the skills, to do a good thing that can be in the service of the community."


 

 

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19 February 2010: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on how young people are helping to meet urgent sanitation needs in post-earthquake Haiti.
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