Haiti’s future rests in the hands of her most valuable resource—Children. Yet, the children of Haiti continue to bear the brunt of poverty and misery. One year after the earthquake, many children are roaming the streets of Port-au-Prince without proper homes, schools, and clean water.
Having grown up in Haiti with worms and exposed to waterborne diseases, I understand the acute dangers of living without clean water. I remember vividly the small worms that we had to remove by hand in the water buckets in our house. The frequent trips to the local clinic were a constant reminder that each sip of water was a risk and could be the last. As such, ensuring that the water source is safe, secure, and sustainable for my younger Haitian brothers and sisters has always been a personal and professional priority. International Action has granted me the opportunity to do just that.
In Haiti, one child out of every eight dies before the age of five of preventable diseases (such as diarrhea, typhoid, malaria) - the highest mortality rate among children in the Western Hemisphere. According to their respective reports, the World and Pan American Health Organizations ranked diarrhea as the second highest cause of death among children under the age of 5, accounting for 20% of deaths. The cholera outbreak, which has already killed more than 4,000 people, multiplied these figures and continues to put the lives of Haiti’s children at extreme risk.
To protect the lives of Haiti’s children, International Action is installing water tanks in schools throughout metropolitan Port-au-Prince and surrounding vicinity. We are currently providing clean water to 73 schools in the Cité Soleil area. Last month, we distributed 13 more 150-gallon water tanks to schools in Cité Soleil. Among the recipients –Ecole Mixte Frère en Jesus, Ecole Mixte des Vaillants, Ecole Mixte Evangelique de Secours, Collège Mixe Le Samaritain en Action. In total, we have 73 water tanks in schools in Haiti’s most impoverished and densely populated commune in Port-au-Prince. Our water tanks are providing clean water to 13,000 students in Cité Soleil.
Most schools in Haiti have no access to running water. Hence, lack of hygiene and sanitation has become a major problem for Haitian students. Many students fall sick regularly and are unable to attend classes. Consequently, they do not perform well at school. Our Campaign for Clean Water in schools is giving students the opportunity to get an education without fear of waterborne illnesses.
President John F. Kennedy once said that children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future. In Haiti’s case, there is no doubt that her young people will lead her rebirth. Nearly half of the Haitian population is under 18 years old. The median age of the total population is 20.2. International Action is inviting you to join the Campaign for Clean Water for Haiti’s students and to be become equal partners in the belief that they are the best hope for the future. Consider making a donation to the children of Haiti today!
Wesley & the International Action Team
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – One year after the earthquake, Haitians are growing impatient with non-governmental organizations, humanitarian aid workers, and its own public officials. Disorganization, bureaucracy, and confusion among humanitarian organizations have left the majority Haitians frustrated and discontent with the progress (or lack thereof) since January 12, 2010. The once welcomed humanitarian organizations and workers are now the subject of resentment and disdain.
Amidst the vast sea of humanitarian organizations lies International Action, a small Washington based non-profit with a staff of 4 in D.C and 10 in Haiti. Since 2006, International Action has been working in the most impoverished communities in Haiti to provide clean water. The organization functions on the key operating principle that Haiti needs a hand up, not a hand out. Out of the thousands of foreign aid organizations in Haiti, few have Haitian input. International Action is among the few humanitarian entities with a staff that is entirely Haitian. A rare occurrence in a country where heavy criticism has been directed towards humanitarian organizations spending aid money on housing, security, and food for non-governmental organization (NGO) staff, while Haitians languish in the camps.
International Action's Haitian staff has continuously shown a sense of accomplishment and pride in their ability to do something significant to improve the lot of their communities and country. Hence, the organization has developed a strong reputation for adopting innovative approaches and providing services to support sustainability and effective use of resources. Through its life saving chlorinators and water tanks, it is currently protecting the water supply and providing clean water for more than 500,000 Haitians. The organization's clean water campaign entails strong community participation while providing sustainable benefits to the people of Haiti.
In order to make any progress, there is no doubt that NGOs need to do a better job of listening to and working with the Haitian people. International Action understands and recognizes this too well. Its Haitian staff conducts monthly meetings with the water board members of various communities in which it has installed its chlorinators and tanks. The water committees have helped in organizing communities to influence water programs and initiatives that affect them. Through its Haitian staff and local water board members, International Action is in greater and closer proximity to its target beneficiaries, creating greater trust with the people. Furthermore, community involvement has helped the organization create programs that are more responsive to the needs of the people.
The ongoing cholera crisis in Haiti highlights the importance of clean water for drinking and preparing disease-free food. Without clean water, an adequate standard of living is out of reach. As is typical for many developing nations, deprivation in access to clean water is a silent crisis experienced by the impoverished. In Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, lack of access to clean water is a crisis that is consigning large segments of the population to lives of poverty, vulnerability, and insecurity.
International Action is demonstrating that it requires a true partnership with the people of Haiti to help. Humanitarian aid organizations should follow its blueprint by hiring more locals to rebuild their countries. The model of Haitians helping Haitians empowers and inspires dignity, courage, and leadership in a country that has suffered so much for many years. Perhaps, it is time that we let Haitians take the lead in rebuilding their country.
One glass of clean water for the holidays
The most amazing element of the Holiday season is neither the surprising gifts nor the delicious food; it is the loving spirit of togetherness and love that drives the holiday magic. When fully understood and embraced as such, suddenly, the foods taste better, the lights shine brighter, and the moments seem perfect.
When I was 12 years old, I had my very first holiday season in America. Besides the below freezing temperature, the runny nose, and perfect snowflakes falling from the sky, it was the exact cheerful spirit of togetherness that I had experienced a year earlier in our modest 2 bedroom home in Port-au-Prince. I remember vividly how my siblings and I gathered around the elders as they told classic Haitian folktales. We did not have a tree or presents, but the holiday spirit was evident because of family, laughter, and love. That’s the Haiti that I remember and the memories that I cherish the most. However, the realities in Haiti this holiday season are different and cannot be ignored.
This holiday season, the people of Haiti are struggling to stay cool and dry under makeshift tents. Moreover, they are struggling to find clean water to protect themselves from the deadly cholera outbreak that has already claimed 2,535 lives. The virus to date has infected some 114,497 people, 55,000 of whom had to be hospitalized. There is no doubt that the current environment of uncertainty and fear has put a small strain on the traditional cheerful holiday spirit in Haiti. However, there is nothing that the people of Haiti cannot overcome. Especially, with your help and support.
As a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, International Action made a commitment to provide clean, safe water for all 2.5 million Haitians in Port-au-Prince through the installation of our community-based water tanks equipped with our innovative chlorinators. This holiday season, we are determined to continue treating the water in neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and orphanages throughout the capital city to help the people of Haiti enjoy the holidays sans waterborne diseases. Our staff is working around the clock installing water tanks and chlorinators in the most impoverished areas. They are also distributing hand soaps to the internally displaced people living in camps throughout Port-au-Prince. Every day, more people are being protected from cholera and other waterborne diseases.
International Action understands, recognizes, and believes that access to clean water is not an end in itself, but a mean to other ends; good health, happiness, and increased human capacity.
This holiday season, as you struggle with shopping lists, invitations, and new year resolutions, we encourage you not to forget the people of Haiti. A glass of clean water can bring a smile on a child’s face. Without adequate water, a cheerful holiday season is out of reach. Consider making a contribution to the people of Haiti this holiday season. One glass of clean water can cheer up many people and revive the holiday magic in many homes.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
Haiti: A Report from the Ground
The great American novelist and activist, James Baldwin, once said that we must look unblinkingly at the circumstances, confront the constructed reality, face the tears of the wounded, and harness ourselves to a great collective effort toward justice.
Last month, a cholera outbreak erupted across Haiti’s Artibonite region. It has since spread across half the country, claiming at least 337 lives and sickening 4,764 others. According to the latest UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs cholera situation report, in the Artibonite region alone, one-fifth of the population is at risk of contracting the deadly waterborne-disease. If left untreated, cholera can kill in mere hours.
To many, International Action is a non-profit organization on Capitol Hill that provides clean water to the people of Haiti. To the people of Haiti, it is much more; it is a movement to restore their dignity and health, and rebuild their smiles through the gift of the single most important nutrient of life – water.
Upon my arrival in Haiti on Sunday, October 24, our Country Director Dalebrun Esther met me at the airport in the “Dlo Pwòp – Clean Water” truck wearing his work polo. As a fellow Haitian, I was very surprised by the fact that he was wearing his work polo on a Sunday. In Haiti, Sunday is a sacred day of rest, worship, and fellowship with friends and family. Before he even said a word, I knew that we were in an emergency situation. Dalebrun briefly greeted me and immediately apologized, “I’m sorry Wesley but you’re going to have to remove your shirt and tie. I have an IA work polo for you. We are heading to the AME Hospital in Arcahaie.” I immediately changed my outfit in the car and we headed to Arcahaie with our team of plumbers and technicians.
We arrived at the African Methodist Episcopal Church Service and Development Agency hospital in Arcahaie and immediately a large group of people begun to cheer. They recognized the “Dlo Pwòp – Clean Water” logo on the truck. We could tell by the look on their faces that the town had been hit hard by the cholera outbreak. As we entered the hospital, I saw countless lifeless bodies on the ground and others lying unconscious on tiny wooden hospital beds. Half were dead, the other half were barely clinging to life. The most heart-wrenching scene was that of a frail body of a 3-year-old girl sharing a bed with a 60-year-old man, both linked to serum IVs. At that very moment, I was faced with the reality of the people of Arcahaie and their plight against the deadly cholera outbreak.
As I interviewed people and took pictures, our plumbers were working hard under the sun installing a chlorinator on the water tank of the hospital. One of our plumbers was stung by a bee and almost fell off the ladder. Fortunately, he was able to hold on to the concrete pillar under the tank. After a few hours, the installation was done. We waited a half hour, tested the water, and voilà it was clean! As we left Arcahaie, the people thanked and hugged us. One woman was in tears as she explained that she had nothing to give us but she would pray that God blesses us. Our work made a difference for the 20,000 people of this historical city. Arcahaie is the birthplace of the Haitian flag, symbol of Haitian freedom from the French army 206 years ago. On that day, October 24, 2010, the people of Arcahaie will always remember that International Action made an historical impact against cholera.
The following day, we packed our bags and drove to the Artibonite region, the epicenter of the cholera outbreak. As we drove through the city of Saint Marc, I witnessed several funerals taking place. One family had no funds to bury their loved one. I took some of the money from my own pocket and gave it to them. As we continued to drive to our destination, we saw more funerals. I told myself that we could not leave those folks stranded, we had to help them. We decided to go directly to the reservoirs to make assessments. We took measurements, pictures, and other statistical data. We went to two large communities where we made chlorine-based solutions that will serve 20,000 people, and taught them how to use it to purify their buckets of water at home. Furthermore, we distributed Albendazole deworming pills. Lastly, we educated them on cholera prevention. Unsurprisingly, many had no idea on how to protect themselves from cholera. Our stop in the town of Boudin educating locals on how to protect themselves was one of many 14-hour work days during that week.
The following day we headed back to Saint Marc with all of our equipment. We climbed a steep mountain. After half an hour, we arrived at the site of a massive reservoir in the town of Desdunes that feeds 30,000 people daily with unclean water. Our staff immediately went to work. The complexity of the German-made reservoir posed a great challenge. However, our staff met the obstacle with their expertise. After hours of work, they were able to install a big chlorinator – LF 2000 model – on the reservoir. We headed down the mountain and drove as far as we could into the community. There we waited an hour or so, then tested the water. Again, voilà clean water! Again, we were received like heroes. Many wanted to pose for pictures next to our staff.
Our team also installed a chlorinator in Mirebalais, in the heart of Center Department, serving another 20,000 people with clean water.
Later during the week, I attended several meetings with the government agency responsible for water and sanitation in Haiti, DINEPA. They requested that we install 20 chlorinators a week. It was clear that they needed and wanted us to assist them against the cholera outbreak. To meet the high expectations set for us by the Government of Haiti, we should consider setting up a satellite office equipped with a chlorine bank in the cholera-affected region. A base directly in the emergency zone will give us increased presence on the ground and allow us to preposition critical supplies for quicker mobilization to save lives.
This is a unique opportunity for us to scale up to meet the mounting cholera threat and further prove that our innovative chlorinator technology can protect lives on a national scale.
Having been born and raised in Haiti, I believed that it is my work with International Action that has afforded me the opportunity to look unblinkingly at the circumstances, confront the constructed reality, face the tears of the wounded, and then harness myself to a great collective effort toward justice. In a short week of work, 90,000 lives were protected because of International Action. As I write this report, tens of thousands of more lives will be saved because of your support and commitment to our work. International Action will bring dignity to millions of people through clean water. Without a doubt, being a part of this campaign is the most wonderful experience of my life. I am personally inviting you to join us in our Campaign for Clean Water in Haiti.
Dear friends, There is a cholera crisis in Haiti. We will spend $120,000 to install new chlorinators and water tanks, distribute chlorine tablets and take our plumbers to towns outside Port-au-Prince. The epidemic started 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince in the area of St. Mark where 100,000 refugees are camped in tents. International Action is working to confine the epidemic to the Artibonite region by installing chlorinators in several towns. The Haitian government is trying to restrict travel by refugees infected by cholera. However, each day a few infected families make it through the government blockade, aiming to return to Port-au-Prince where friends and doctors and hospitals exist. As a result more than 1.3 million survivors of the earthquake of January 12 are in danger. These people are jammed into tents in camps around Port-au-Prince with no sewers and very little access to clean water. Cholera is the worst of waterborne diseases. “It travels with the speed of lightening and can kill a person in four hours,” says Haitian camp leader Jean Michel Maxmillien. “So of course we are all on edge”. Led by Wesley Laine of International Action and Dalebrun Esther begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting of our partner group in Haiti – Dlo Pwop – 10 staff are installing chlorine systems, distributing chlorine tablets, and testing water to end the cholera epidemic. The Haitian water agency – DINEPA – asked for our help and joined our campaign in St. Mark and the Artibonite province. We also have 40 chlorine sites in Port-au-Prince serving clean water to 400,000 Haitians. We need your help immediately to stop the epidemic. A gift of $250 will cover staff travel and enable them to install a chlorinator. $500 will pay for chlorine for 5 towns. $50,000 will enable Dalebrun to hire local plumbers in St. Mark, rent a small storage area and begin to protect the large Artibonite region. We are counting on you! Lindsay Mattison Director
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