The earthquake of January 2010 had left in its wake damaged public infrastructure and institutions with an outbreak of Cholera threatening thousands of lives.
“The emergency in Haiti has not ceased. Thousands of Haitians inhabit tent cities, a lack of clean water is rampant, and a cholera outbreak has forced the government and NGO’s to focus on competing crises,” Researcher Assistant with the NGO Zachary Levin-Epstein says in an email interview.
Levin-Epstein says although the situation arising from the quake has since improved, the largest threat currently facing Haiti is the Cholera outbreak. He says the Haitian Ministry of Health has reported 5,506 deaths due to cholera, with the start of the rain season causing a considerable increase in the number of reported deaths.
Rubble clearing project
In 2010, International Action IA launched a project involving local Haitians in the clearing of rubbles occasioned by the January quake, but the project could not be sustained due to cost and logistic challenges.
“Unfortunately, the rubble clearance project only lasted a few months, Levin-Epstein tells Digital Journal. “We wanted to direct our funds into providing clean water to fight cholera,” associate director of International Action Youngmin Chang explains.
Providing clean water
Following the challenges involved in the rubble clearance project, International Action has since deemed it fit to focus its energies on disinfecting water and measures to help thousands of Haitians who face the risk of falling to Cholera.
“Our primary goal is providing clean and safe water to the people of Haiti. We have also responded to the cholera outbreak by providing deworming pills to Haitians to lessen the injuries and fatalities of the epidemic,” the Research Assistant with IA Levin-Epstein says.
As part of efforts to ensure clean water in the capital, the International Action maintains over 100 readily available chlorinators with each one capable of cleaning water for up to 10,000 people. “The chlorinators we use are energy-free and provide clean water for every 1 out of 6 residents of Port-au-Prince,” Levin-Epstein adds.
Levin-Epstein says current challenges on the ground include fundraising, connecting and working with other NGO’s, and establishing better relations with more water boards in Haiti.
On fundraising, the Research Assistant says it is vital, in order to help as many Haitians as possible. He cites his NGO's current campaign- Clean Water for Schools, which he says needs more funds to be successful. “We have already installed a water tank and chlorinator in 18 schools. But 30 more schools are left. Five schools are just our target for next month” Levin-Epstein explains. “It costs $3,500 to install a 2000-gallon tanks and a chlorinator, train the school staff how to operate them, and to make visits to the sites periodically.”
Working with other NGO’s is also an area of challenge. “Our primary reason for distributing the granular chlorine for free is to help fight cholera. IA has enough granular chlorine to disinfect water for every Haitian for 6-9 months. IA can’t do it alone,” Levin-Epstein says. “In response to this, we are reaching out to as many NGOs as possible to take some off our hands. With better relations and more NGO’s and community groups reaching out to us, we could better help Haitians.”
Responding to the challenges
Levin-Epstein of the International Action says includes, reaching out to more NGOs and a more focused fundraising effort.
For updates on the situation in Haiti and donations, International Action maintains a dedicated website at haitiwater.org.