By Xin Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns the international community to start early building sustainable facilities to solve the challenge of sanitation.
By far, after six months following the earthquake, IFRC has made significant progress in stabilizing living conditions for local homeless victims.
Led by the Haitian Red Cross, it has, to date, built almost 2,700 latrines in camps across Port-au -Prince, and each day produces and distributes 2.4 million liters of clean water-enough for 280,000 people.
About 95,000 people have been provided with medical treatment. More than 150,000 people have been vaccinated against measles, diphtheria, and rubella. And 3,722 shelters have been completed, 14,412 shelters in country side, 27,214 in the pipeline.
However, despite considerable achievements, at least half of the directly affected population is yet to see an improvement in their sanitation and water situation. “Water and money are not the biggest headache that we have, but the sanitation is”, says Will Carter, senior officer for water, sanitation and emergency health. “The sanitation in Haiti was very disadvantaged before the earthquake, and it is much worse now; improving it is a dirty job, but it has to be done. It is not only about a clean living environment and health, but also related to the human dignity.”
Matthias Schmale, the IFRC’s undersecretary general for program services is also calling for the international community’s new awareness especially on the issues of local sanitation and waste management. “The sanitation situation in Haiti was already dire before the earthquake. There is a huge opportunity to make a difference”, says Mr. Schmale.
Mr. Schmale points out that we should learn a lesson from the humanitarian mission in Nagua, the northeastern Dominican Republic, where the conditions and facilities stayed on an emergency level for so long. The money ran out, and reconstruction became much more difficult in Nagua. In Haiti, it is also fairly expensive to run every facility on emergency mode. Although IFRC have around 1 billion dollars to use so far, it will be exhausted if the facilities remain unsustainable. Mr. Schmale is trying to draw the attention of international community to start rebuilding early. “We have to take action now to build sanitation according to the plans for Haiti’s future”, he says.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries. Mr. Schmale is hoping to build a more complete and sustainable Haiti than the pre-earthquake Haiti. So far, 2,617 latrines have been built — 2,321 pit latrines and 296 flood resistant — in 94 sites serving nearly 238,000 people. The IFRC is hoping for more research on long term sanitation solutions. The humanitarian mission in Haiti should be turned into reconstruction and building a sustainable society.
Xin Huang is a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. He is participating in a summer internship in Geneva, Switzerland, where he is attending conferences at the United Nations.