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Haiti six months on: Red Cross calls for urgent sanitation solution

8 July 2010

Man cleaning camp latrines© InfoThe Red Cross has published a report highlighting the critical sanitation situation in Haiti six months after the earthquake. It calls on the international community to make sanitation a priority in Haiti’s reconstruction.

The report – From sustaining lives to sustainable solutions: the challenge of sanitation in Haiti – emphasises that humanitarian agencies running sanitation services is not a long-term solution.

“The Red Cross and other organisations are currently providing a large proportion of water and sanitation services, on behalf of the Haitian authorities, to the two million people affected by the quake,” said Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross disaster recovery manager.

Long-term challenges

“However sanitation is a much broader urban reconstruction issue that falls outside the capacity and remit of humanitarian agencies. Currently, we are simply containing a critical situation, rather than solving it. Looking to Haiti’s future, we need the international community to get behind this issue and support the Haitian authorities.”

The report outlines the long-term challenges and opportunities to improve pre-disaster sanitation infrastructure in Haiti. It is 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.

Alastair continued: “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.”

Red Cross support

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has, to date, provided basic sanitation to some 240,000 people in the form of toilets, hygiene promotion, and clean water.

Every day, it is transporting 2.4 million litres of clean water to 94 sites across Port-au-Prince, and has also provided 120,000 families – almost 600,000 people – with emergency shelter material. 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.

Read personal stories from survivors of Haiti's quake


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