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At a glance: Haiti

Reaching the most remote Haitian earthquake survivors with safe water

© UNICEF video
To reach even the most-remote households, UNICEF partner Deep Springs International uses a team of pack mules carrying water buckets and purification tablets to a mountain community in Haiti.

By Thomas Nybo

LEOGANE, Haiti 26 February 2010 – Simple plastic buckets and inexpensive water-purification tablets are being used to provide safe drinking water to people living in the mountains outside Leogane, an area that was close to the epicentre of the earthquake that struck Haiti in January.

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Many of the households situated in the mountains rely on river water for drinking, which leaves them highly susceptible to diarrhoea and other water-borne ailments that are especially dangerous to children under the age of five.

The buckets are fitted with taps and delivered with a supply of water-purification tablets to the mountain residents. The system is a cost-effective way to provide safe water to this vulnerable community.

Delivering water to families

The project was spearheaded by UNICEF partner Deep Springs International, a non-governmental organization specializing in water treatment, with help from Save The Children. Because the team had been working on the project before the earthquake, it was perfectly situated to step in and provide immediate relief. The goal is to deliver 15,000 water buckets to quake-affected families.

© UNICEF video
In Leogane, 165 health agents distribute safe-water storage containers and chlorine for quake-affected families.

"Here in the Leogane community, there are about 160,000 people, and we're working with a group of 165 health agents to distribute safe-storage containers and chlorine," said Deep Springs International President Michael Ritter. "To date, they have distributed about 4,000 containers, and we have plans to scale that up considerably to another 11,000 in the coming two months."

To reach the most remote households, Deep Springs is using a team of pack mules to carry the buckets and purification tablets high into the mountains.

Household visits

Back in the city of Leogane, a group of especially vulnerable women and children have also received buckets and purification tablets. Magdaline Paul, 30, a mother whose family home was destroyed by the earthquake, is now living in a tent with 22 other family members.

"I'm happy because I've received a water bucket," she said. "I've also received training about how to make the water pure using the tablets, so that nobody in my family gets sick from the water."

UNICEF is contributing to this effort with follow-up visits to monitoring the effectiveness of household water treatment.

Mr. Ritter noted that such visits are among the best ways to increase the odds of success. "One of the most important reasons that some people treat their water regularly is that they received household visits," he said. "So that's a critical aspect of all of our programmes."




19 February 2010: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on efforts to get water to the most remote survivors of Haiti's 12 January earthquake.
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