Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Saving Lives, Changing Lives

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Prevention of Water-borne Diseases in Flood Zones

Following the floods in the Deschapelles and neighboring areas earlier this month, volunteer animatrices visited all of the households to which they are assigned to assess the risk factors for disease. A graphic chart was designed to allow the mostly illiterate animatrices to report damage to latrines, well-heads, water storage, or household materials which might contribute to gastrointestinal and other diseases.

More than 1,000 households were surveyed in the three major flood zones, and the results were synthesized in order to identify regions and households where the damage was the most extensive and severe.

I, along with the director of the HAS Wells and Water team, and the senior community relations manager, visited over 50 high-priority households to validate the findings of the survey, and to establish our priorities for reconstruction. We selected three localities with a total of 8 separate households, and over 65 residents in total. In each of these 8 households, we will build a latrine to replace the ones which had been damaged beyond repair. At the same time, we will decontaminate wells and evaluate the need for repair of the well heads.

Work begins Monday on this strategy, with the purchase of cement and hiring a bos mason who will oversee the construction of the latrines at three central sites. Each latrine costs approximately $300, the funds for which have been received from generous and concerned donors.

As the work proceeds on these latrines, we will go to several other nearby localities which have been identified by the surveys to have been seriously damaged. There, our priorities will be latrine construction and well decontamination, plus possible construction of flood-proof wellheads.

In some communities, we have identified the need for biosand water filters; water is accessible through shallow wells, but the water is consistently polluted, so a household water filter will remove coliform bacteria to render the water potable.

The flooding and its aftermath have shown us how vulnerable the local families can be to environmental impacts; as we visit households, we are invited into neighboring courtyards which did not suffer flood damage, but still need latrines, wellheads and water filters. As a result, this work will extend beyond the present urgent state into the near future.

With the encouragement and support of an NGO which is active in the north of Haiti, we will construct several multi-user composting latrines, to be located in several clusters of large compounds of extended families (20 or more residents).

Ian Rawson
Managing Director