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UNICEF says sanitation initiative in Haiti shows promising results

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23, CMC – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says a sanitation initiative in south-eastern Haiti has shown encouraging results, with a major reduction in the number of water-borne infections for residents.

“Five localities in this region have been declared open defecation free (ODF), which marks progress in the prevention of cholera and other water-borne diseases in the area,” said Marc Vincent, UNICEF’s Representative in the French-speaking Caribbean country.

haiti-cholera“In the area of sanitation, we have come a long way and there is still a long way to go. For UNICEF, we are active in 120 communities and, in total, more than 20,000 people in the country now benefit from living in an ODF environment – this is a substantive change and it inspires hope,” he added.

The five localities – Nan Merlien, Fatima, Rada and three other communities in the country’s south-east – have been taking part in the UN-backed Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) campaign as part of the Total Sanitation Campaign.

This supports the Haitian authorities’ national plan against cholera, through the promotion of zero open defecation and increased access to water and sanitation facilities in schools and health centers, the UN said.

It said the CLTS Campaign supports local communities in addressing access to water, rehabilitating water systems and ensuring chlorination to combat contamination.

At the same time, the UN said the initiative is also supporting communities to build toilets and to reduce the contamination of water through open defecation.

CLTS has already been implemented in 67 other localities and, as a result, 1,000 self-built household toilets have been constructed, and 2,000 more are in progress, the UN said, noting that six communities have been certified as ODF, and 16 are in process.

Harry Richner, a community worker in the Haitian South-East department, underlined that the effort to convince local residents to change their habits required persistence as many had hoped that others would construct the required latrines.

“I have been engaged in this fight for a long time, and, with the combined efforts of several partners we were able to end this practice in the area,” Richner said.

 “Thanks to the local CLTS committee of nine adults and two children who helped me do the work, we were able to meet the challenge.”

One of the local committee members in the locality of Fatima Rada, 12-year-old Anephta Pierre-Louis, highlighted the important role that children have to play in the campaign.

“I deal with monitoring in the committee –when a family leaves its toilet dirty, I ask them nicely to clean it so as to avoid catching diseases, “she said.

“But I also educate children like me, in my neighbourhood and at school: I ask them not to defecate on the ground and to wash their hands after leaving the toilet.”

“When you talk to people in the communities and see how proud they are of having built themselves their own toilets, and how proud they are of protecting their families and children by their own means– when you see that it gives you hope, hope to go further and beyond,” Vincent said.

 “Because what we want and have to do is totally eliminate cholera.”

In 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched, with the Haitian government, the Total Sanitation Campaign, which is one of the long-term key pillars to the cholera response in Haiti.

The UN said this response has also other key components, such as the emergency response and the epidemiological surveillance.

  • Countries: Haiti

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