The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in a report published [on 8 July 2010], has called on the international community to recognize sanitation as one of the priorities in Haiti’s reconstruction.
The report – From sustaining lives to sustainable solutions: the challenge of sanitation in Haiti – calls sanitation the “neglected twin” of water provision in the aftermath of disasters.
“Equal emphasis must be given both now and in the future to improving sanitation facilities,” it says, noting that resources and innovative solutions are urgently needed to support Haitian authorities to provide improved sanitation services to the 2 million people affected by the quake.
Matthias Schmale, the IFRC’s Under Secretary General for programme services said: “Looking to Haiti’s future, we need the international community to get behind sanitation and support the Haitian authorities. The sanitation situation in Haiti was already dire before the earthquake and this disaster was as bad as it gets. There is a huge opportunity to make a difference, but we have to take action now to build sanitation into the plans for Haiti’s future.
“Simply returning to pre-earthquake levels of sanitation would be unacceptable.”
The report outlines the long-term challenges and opportunities to improve pre-disaster sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, the only country in the world where access to improved sanitation had decreased in recent years: before the earthquake, only 17 per cent of the population had access to a toilet [according to UNICEF].
The Red Cross and Red Crescent, led by the Haitian Red Cross, has, to date, built almost 2,700 latrines in camps across Port-au-Prince, and each day produces and distributes 2.4 million litres of clean water – enough for 280,000 people. However, despite considerable achievements, at least half of the directly affected population are yet to see any improvement in their sanitation and water situation.
“Six months after the earthquake, the Red Cross Red Crescent and other humanitarian agencies continues to provide a large proportion of water and sanitation services on behalf of the Haitian authorities,” said Gianluca Salone, IFRC water and sanitation coordinator in Haiti.
“However, this is a much broader urban reconstruction issue that falls outside the capacity and remit of humanitarian agencies. We are all stretched to our capacity and are simply containing a critical situation, rather than solving it. From now on sanitation must be integrated into wider plans to rebuild Haiti and long-term solutions must be found.”
The IFRC believes that the situation is untenable. It is calling for the development of innovative, sustainable and appropriate technological systems that, dependent on the availability of land, will give large numbers of Haitian people safe and reliable sanitation for the years to come.
As the reconstruction effort continues, the focus is shifting to ensuring that those returning to their homes or moving to transitional shelters will have access to adequate sanitation. The integration of sanitation into reconstruction plans is critical for a healthy future.
The report also highlights some potential longer-term solutions that could help stimulate Haiti’s economy as well as address the challenges of waste management and sanitation. For example, research into the viability of large-scale waste composting and biogas production could provide dual benefits such as energy production, or boosting agricultural activity. Scoping out such solutions needs input from the international community to help build the capacity of Haiti’s authorities.
Led by the Haitian Red Cross, the Red Cross Red Crescent to date has provided medical treatment for 95,000 people, vaccinated more than 150,000 against measles, diphtheria and rubella, and provided 120,000 families – almost 600,000 people – with emergency shelter material.
Related web site: IFRC – Haiti Earthquake
Source: IFRC, 08 Jul 2010