The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is very active in Haiti, particularly in the sectors of water/sanitation and nutrition. UNICEF recently released their annual Humanitarian Action Report. It is intended for donors, but if you are interested in knowing what UNICEF did in Haiti during 2008 and seeks to accomplish in 2009, this is a good place to start. The Haiti section is copied below.
Below is a blog we received concerning International Action's campaign to make access to clean water a reality throughout Port au Prince. Their approach is to provide cost effective tablet chlorinators and to build the capacity of community members to manage them. After reading the blog below, take a look at their website and this short video clip about their work. If you would like to stay updated, you can also sign up for their e-newsletter. There are ample opportunities to support their work whether as a donor, an intern, or a volunteer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released an interesting and easy to understand guide on the relationship between investments in water/sanitation/hygiene (WASH) and public health. The international community, and Haiti Innovation included, have been paying a lot of attention to food security. However, children with diarrhoea from poor water are not able to absorb nutrients, are more likely to become malnourished, and subsequently come down with a life threatening disease. Worldwide 1.4 million children a year die (6,000 a day) die from diarrhoea. In Haiti, 10% of all deaths are estimated to be water-related. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene, together are key to promoting public health in Haiti and elsewhere.
Sanitation is an often overlooked but very important component of public health. The United States government has an HIV/AIDS Coordinator, a Malaria Coordinator, and an Avian Influenza Coordinator. However, if we really wanted to focus on saving the lives of children worldwide, we would have a global diarrhea coordinator. As Rose George writes in the article below, "excrement is the real weapon of mass destruction." Alas, it is not a sexy public health issue and celebrities are unlikely to rally around this cause. But in countries such as Haiti, providing adequate sanitation is an essential part of promoting public health. The full article is below.
It is not easy to find a library in Haiti. The Fondation Connaissance & Liberté (FOKAL) wants to change that. FOKAL supports 35 community libraries throughout Haiti. FOKAL also supports arts and culture programming, a debate program, grassroots initiatives, a preschool program and even water projects. FOKAL staff will speak at the Library of Congress in Washington DC on June 10th. If you do not live in the Washington DC area, you can catch the live webcast. In the meantime,take a look at their website to learn more about this organiztion. Education is fundamental to solving Haiti’s economic, environmental, and health related challenges.
Former Central Plateau Resident, Professional Archaeologist, and Peace Corps Colleague Dan Broockmann sent in the following story about latrine usage in Maissade. 2008 has been designated the year of sanitation and latrines are important for public health. Every Haitian family would like to have one but the cost is prohibitive for many. And as Dan writes, even latrines need maintenance eventually...
In light of World Water Day, I wanted to highlight a Frontline multimedia piece on water scarcity in Haiti by Shoshana Guy. Though not recent (it was produced after Tropical Storm Jean) the key issues are as valid now as then. Haitians continue to struggle both from having too little water to drink and from having more water than cab be absorbed after seasonal rains. The result is flooding/mud slides such as those which decimated Gonaives.
Is water a right, a commodity, or both? Perhaps the better question would be whether clean water is a right - considering that 1 billion people live without access to water that is safe. Water sustains life, but shortages bring about desperation, disease, and conflict all of which fuel poverty. It doesn't have to be this way. World Water Day is coming up and presents a good opportunity for us to redouble our efforts to ensure that even the poorest of the poor have access to enough safe, drinkable water.
Let's face it - life is fragile. One mosquito bite or one glass of questionable water makes the difference between good health one day, and sickness the next. In developing countries such as Haiti, the very water needed to survive can also cause sickness and, for the young, even death. In Port au Prince, the wealthy purchase treated water while the poor depend on crumbling infrastructure. A documentary entitled "Drop for Drop" explores access to water in Haiti's largest city.
So I've been thinking about joining Rotary Club. Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders interested in humanitarian service, encouraging high ethical standards, and promoting peace and goodwill around the world. There are about 1.2 million Rotarians belonging to more than 31,000 Rotary clubs in 166 countries. There are plenty of programs financed by Rotary International, but are there Haitian Rotary Clubs? Turns out that there are.