accessibility & help

Haiti 6 months on: Red Cross report calls for urgent sanitation solution

Thursday 8 July 2010
For further information  please contact

Becky Webb


telephone: 020 7877 7039 / Out of office hours 07659 145095


Simone Bresi-Ando


telephone: 020 7877 7045 /  Out of office hours 07659 145095

The Red Cross, in a report published today, highlighted the critical sanitation situation in Haiti six months after the earthquake and called on the international community to recognise sanitation as one of the priorities in Haiti’s reconstruction.

The report – From sustaining lives to sustainable solutions: the challenge of sanitation in Haiti – emphasised that humanitarian agencies running sanitation services is not a sustainable solution, and resources and innovative solutions are urgently needed to support Haitian authorities to take over this role and provide improved sanitation services to the two million people affected by the quake.

“Six months on, the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies continues to provide a large proportion of water and sanitation services on behalf of the Haitian authorities,” said Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross Disaster Recovery Manager.

“However sanitation 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.

We need to see 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.

From this moment on sanitation must be integrated into wider plans to rebuild Haiti and long-term solutions must be found.”

The report outlined 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.

Burnett continued: “Looking to Haiti’s future, we need the international community to get behind this issue 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 International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, led by the Haitian Red Cross, has, to date, provided basic sanitation to some 240,000 people in the form of toilets, hygiene promotion, and clean water. However despite considerable achievements, at least half of the directly affected population are yet to see any improvement in their sanitation and water situation.

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 highlighted 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 and vaccinated more than 150,000 against measles, diphtheria and rubella. Everyday, it transports 2.4 million litres of clean water to 94 different sites across Port-au-Prince, and has provided 120,000 families – almost 600,000 people – with emergency shelter material.


Notes to editors

For more information on the British Red Cross or to download a copy of the report, please visit:

For interviews contact Becky Webb on 020 7877 7039 /

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.