The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a brief but stark warning about the threat posed to Haitian children by gang violence, cholera, and malnutrition. The situation in Haiti is difficult, but especially so for children. Emboldened gangs, a growing cholera epidemic, and worsening malnutrition are negatively impacting the well-being of Haitian children. The government is weak, the gangs are in many cases better armed than the police, and core development issues like agriculture, education, infrastructure, and human rights have once again taken a back seat to insecurity. Restoring security won't solve Haiti's problems but it is at least a prequisite.
As one of the few countries in the world where sanitation had gotten worse over the past twenty years, Haiti was highly vulnerable to the cholera outbreak in 2010. After years of obfuscation, the United Nations has finally admitted that the epidemic was imported by UN peacekeepers. That it has happened at all is testament to the efforts of Haitian civil society and the advocacy of organizations like the Institute of Democracy and Justice in Haiti. The UN intends to release a response plan in two weeks. More information from AFP follows.
The World Bank recently pledged $50 million for water and sanitation programs in Haiti. The funding will cover all clinics and schools in rural areas that are considered hot-spots for cholera. Haiti is one of a small number of countries in which sanitation deteriorated over the last twenty-five years. Investing in water and sanitation is essential for promoting public health. More information follows:
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) conditions in Port-au-Prince were not good even before the devastating January 2010 earthquake. Perversely, the poor often paid the most for drinking water. Against this backdrop, a number of international organizations and non-governmental organizations are working with the Haitian government to help establish a more effective and equitable water system. One of these non governmental organizations, International Action, has been involved with water related issues in Haiti since 2006. Below is an update as to their latest activities.
On Wednesday, January 12th, the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, the National Disaster Life Support Foundation Inc. and Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness will host a free webinar on the current status of public health and health care in Haiti, including the ongoing cholera response. More information follows. You can register for the event by clicking here.
Haiti is in the midst of a cholera outbreak, the origin of which is and may remain unclear. We live in a mobile world and the source could be Africa, Asia, South America, or it may have already been in the environment. Where it came from is less important than the fact that Haiti, and especially the poorest of the poor, will always be vulnerable without clean water, adequate sanitation, and good hygiene. This is an update on the current cholera emergency and a reflection on actions that can prevent this from happening again.
March 22 is World Water Day. Growing up, like many others, I did not appreciate how lucky I was to have clean, safe water. We need it to drink and become sick if we do not have it. We need it for agriculture and would become hungry without it. We need it for washing, bathing, and clean health care facilities. Likewise we need sanitation and hygiene to protect food, water, and health. One billion people around the world still lack clean drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. It doesn’t have to be this way. World Water Day is an opportunity to ask what we can do in the year ahead to address the world's water crisis.
World Water Day has come and gone. About 1.1 billion people still do not have access to safe drinking water, and two in every five people on the planet still have no access to a proper toilet. The international community has become increasingly aware of the disastrous consequences of the status quo for public health and economic growth. It will take more than awareness to change the current situation - it will also take political will, long term committment, and a new approach.
Every March 22nd since 1992 has been World Water Day. This year's theme is "Shared Waters and Shared Opportunities." 4,200 children die each day from preventable water-borne disease. Responding is not just a moral imperative, but sound economics. For each dollar spent on water and sanitation projects, the projected return on investment is from $3 to $34. For too many of us, a glass of contaminated water can mean the difference between life and death. You can help change this by taking part in the TAP Project during World Water Week.
On the outskirts of Les Cayes several years ago, I came across a school with a bio-latrine that used airless digestion to transform human waste into gas suitable for cooking, heating and lighting. After one month, there was enough gas being produced to cook a meal for all of the students in this fairly large school, without using environmentally destructive wood charcoal. The gas is without odor and, beyond the initial investment, without cost. The experiences of other low resource countries might hold lessons for the potential scale up of this innovation in Haiti.