UNICEF and partners provide safe water for Haitian children and families
Haiti's 'double disaster' poses water-and-sanitation challenges
Here in the capital, UNICEF is now providing potable water for 235,000 people at hospitals and distribution points around the city. And water distribution is being scaled up significantly. The target is to reach half a million people with a consistent water supply within the next few days.
Safe water is critical to staving off a second wave of disaster caused by disease outbreaks, especially among children.
Children are vulnerable
This is a challenge in the context of Haiti's 'double disaster' – because the development constraints that the country already faced have worsened considerably in the aftermath of the 12 January quake.
"You have to keep in mind that prior to the earthquake, only 50 percent of the entire country had access to clean water in the first place," said UNICEF WASH Specialist Silvia Gaya. "Children in emergency situations like this one are more susceptible to illness and death from waterborne disease."
Working in concert with DINEPA, the state-run water authority, UNICEF has been able to establish 115 water-distribution points throughout Port-au-Prince and surrounding locales. Many of the sites have been set up at the improvised settlements that Haitians have created because they've either lost homes in the disaster or remain hesitant to return to their homes for fear of aftershocks.
Water trucks and bladders
In the Canapé Vert neighbourhood, for example, UNICEF and partners are meeting the safe-water needs of approximately 105,000 people.
And at a temporary settlement in the capital's main public park, Champs de Mars, a 10,000-litre water bladder has been set up in the shadow of a monument to national hero General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. The park, with its picturesque plazas and lush landscapes, has been transformed into a small city of tents and makeshift shelters housing 20,000 people. Sanitation facilities there remain less than adequate.
The private, family-run mission has opened up its grounds to people who were displaced when entire communities in the area were reduced to rubble. While UNICEF has overseen the digging of 45 latrines at the compound, more than 10,000 people housed there are only being served by two small water cisterns.
In addition, DINEPA dispatches one water truck to the mission daily – but it is not enough to meet the cooking, bathing and drinking water demands everyone in the encampment.
"We expect that the residents here are getting water from alternate sources outside of the compound, since what is present is completely inadequate," said Ms. Gaya of UNICEF. "We will be working to get water bladders here to meet the immediate needs of daily usage. Meanwhile, with the construction of these latrines, we can offer some semblance of dignity and sanitary conditions for families temporarily residing here."
Richard Alleyne contributed reporting to this story from Haiti.
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