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.
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.
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.
The Jolivert Safe Water System developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Pan American Health Organization is a successful example of a community-based clean water program. CDC partnered with Missions of Love Clinic in Jolivert and Deep Springs International to treat water using a hypochlorite solution in a safe container at home. The program employs local Haitians to produce and distribute the solution, while providing community education on healthy water and sanitation practices.
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.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world on Thursday to take action against water shortages. Whether we are talking about global health, economic growth, or global peace, how water is managed, used, and shared must be taken into account. As a developmental and humanitarian issue alike, water shortages will need to be addressed nationally, regionally, and globally.
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.