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UNICEF provides clean water and sanitation for Haitian families seeking medical assistance on both sides of the border

Caring for children where they are


By Jennifer Bakody


Jimani, Dominican Republic, 28 January 2010 – A cleared area the size of a football pitch, a wide open space with tufts of grass – it looks like just the place for a group of children to kick around a soccer ball. Instead, the gated property of the Buen Samaritano hospital is taken up by rows of blood-stained mattresses sheltered under sheets propped up on sticks, each like a makeshift tent. The children and their families who are out here were being cared for inside the facilities when a strong aftershock had them up and hobbling on their broken limbs, scared. Mothers and fathers preferred to take their children outdoors, out in the open where nothing could fall on them again to cause them further harm.


In total, five cross-border facilities are attending to the medical needs of Haitians affected by the 12 January earthquake that struck the heart of Port-au-Prince: four of these are in Jimani, while one called Love-A-Child is located some 20 kilometers away in Fond Parisien, Haiti. With the exception of the public hospital in Jimani, all of the facilities are staffed by doctors and nurses from abroad, the majority coming from the United States. With the support of the Dominican authorities, they are doing all they can to provide life-saving medical care. In most cases, this first means resetting fractured bones and taking steps to ward off infection.


Today the combined total of Haitians in these makeshift facilities numbers several thousands. Under these conditions, existing provisions for clean water and sanitation have become over-stretched. In response, UNICEF’s office in Santo Domingo has taken urgent steps to help some 3,000 people, at least 40 percent of whom are believed to be children, by procuring and working with its partners as well as with the DR Ministry of Health to install toilets and water tanks where needed. Cleaning supplies have also been purchased and technical support provided.


Elizes and her 13-year-old son Malachy look forward to taking a proper shower. Since the earthquake leveled their home in Port-au-Prince neither has been able to change their clothing. It’s been over two weeks now. Still, Elizes doesn’t complain; on the contrary, she has nothing but praise for the DR authorities and the health professionals who’ve helped to save her son’s lacerated and fractured leg and have kept all his gauges clean. “We’re good,” she says, “Aren’t we, Malachy?” And the 13-year-old flashes a toothy smile, proud to show off the contraption that pins his upper thigh in place.


However welcome a shower and clean toilet facilities may be, access to water and safe sanitation in situations as this one takes on even more importance; it is a life and death issue, given that water and sanitation related diseases, such as diarrhea, are the major killers of children under five. Consequently, so-called WASH programs – namely, water, sanitation and hygiene – remain UNICEF’s focus in the face of this emergency. To this end, throughout all affected areas, UNICEF is currently providing safe drinking water to more than 300,000 people on a daily basis.


Seated on the mattress beside Malachy and his mother, is a young mother named Alicia who’s breast feeding her first-born daughter; she was only weeks old when the earthquake struck, sending bricks onto her small body and breaking both of her legs. They are now in a cast, healing.


Alicia says she’s grateful for the care she and her daughter have received in the Dominican Republic, and she herself is determined to do all she can to keep her own body strong in order to pass on key nutrients and immunity to her daughter. In this regard, to her, drinking clean water has never tasted so good.


For more information
Patricia Garcia, pgarcia@unicef.org, UNICEF Dominican Republic
Tamar Hahah, thahn@unicef.org
, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean + (507) 301 7485


About UNICEF  
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.   


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