World Water Day – An Innovative Approach

Image

Somewhere between 780 million and 3.5 billion people in the world lack access to clean drinking water. To put that in perspective, the majority of people in developing countries like Haiti do not have access to clean drinking water. Drinking untreated water puts you at a much higher risk of contracting water-borne illnesses like cholera and, in Haiti; this has had a devastating effect as more than half the deaths in the country are from water related illnesses. Furthermore, many of these people live without access to electricity which means traditional water treatment options aren’t viable.

On this upcoming World Water Day, the UN encourages all to think about the inequalities in water access, particularly amongst the “bottom billion”, and the need for universal sustainable access to clean drinking water.  In areas with no electricity and where access to water treatment and sanitation are absent, it is imperative to come up with creative solutions that allow the most people to have access to clean drinking water with the least drain on environmental and economic resources.

With this in mind, International Action focuses on simple, sustainable solutions to bring clean water to some of the most impoverished areas in Haiti. Our chlorinators take advantage of gravity fed water systems and require no electricity to operate and our upcoming Chlorine Distribution System will provide local communities with the knowledge, logistics, and sustainable source of funds to maintain and operate our highly effective chlorinators.  In addition, our recent solar pump initiative uses energy from the sun to bring clean water to rural areas.

The demand for clean water is only increasing and using energy-efficient means to sanitize water means more potable water for the people who need it most.

International Women’s Day — A Girl’s Potential

Where would you be if you didn’t have access to clean water? Would you be able to go to school with stomach pains, diarrhea, and dehydration? Would you feel safe carrying a 40 lbs. bucket of water through some of the worst slums at night? Access to clean water holds the key to empowering women and young girls to reach their full potential.

Rochelles Story….

A few years ago, her sister was missing excessive amounts of school because she suffered from chronic diarrhea caused from drinking contaminated water. Furthermore, instead of investing in their daughters’ education, her family was forced to spend their savings on drinking water. Thankfully, all of this changed with the installation of a chlorinator in the water supply. Her sister recovered and was able to return to school and Rochelle’s parents were able to save money to invest in their daughters’ education. Now, Rochelle is a nursing student with plans to better the lives of the people around her.

Rochelle (center) and her sisters

Rochelle (center) and her sisters

Rochelle and her sister are the lucky ones, many young girls and women do not have stories with happy endings like Rochelle. In Haiti, women and girls are usually the ones responsible for getting water from the water stations and bringing it home. On average, they spend about two hours a day lugging 5 gallon jugs of water about half a mile so that their families can have water to drink, cook, and bathe with. Some young girls are even sold by desperately poor parents into slavery as water carriers. These girls spend their days and lives carrying water for families rather than receiving an education that can give them a chance at a better life.

One of the reasons why this happens is because education in Haiti is largely private. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world but despite most families living on less than $600 a year, necessities such as water and education are not free. Often having to choose between immediate needs and the future, parents choose to use what little money they have for water and food instead of education. What this means is that in a country of widespread poverty, many children cannot even dream to have access to education because their families simply can’t afford it.

International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8th and with that in mind it is important to remember how vital it is to invest in women and their future. By investing in women, we are promoting progress for all and that all starts with meeting basic needs.  More access to clean water equals more opportunity for education and a better life for girls in Haiti.

Check out our page on the International Women’s Day website here!

ANOTHER OBSTACLE FOR HAITI

Haiti experiences several misfortunes: earthquakes, poverty, diseases, unavailability of clean water, and now the prevalence of child slavery. At times, poor families leave one or more of their children to become a child slave, known in Haiti as restaveks. It is estimated that 1 in every 10 Haitian children are restaveks. Parents force their young children to perform domestic labor, while promising to provide the child with food, schooling, and shelter. The number of orphans in the nation greatly exceeds the number of restaveks, due to several orphanages promising to provide the abandon children with schooling and housing. Some relate these practices to the slave era when African families were forcibly torn apart. One issue can be expressed by the popularity of child slavery and abundance of parent-less children – Haiti’s family structure stands disoriented. It is important to emphasize the importance of family in Haiti so future generations will not suffer from emotional health disorders. There is a positive side to this story, the WWO ( Worldwide Orphans Foundation) organizes summer sports camps; and IDEJEN( a organization sponsored by USAID which aids out-of-school age children) helps young adults find employment and prepares them for family life.
Alexis N. Davis
International Action Intern

CHOLERA: A CATASTROPHE FOR HAITI

Here is a simple overview of the cholera epidemic in Haiti:

The rapid spread of the cholera bacteria in Haiti has been devastating for its communities. Cholera spreads through contaminated food, water, and fecal matter. Victims of Cholera experience symptoms between two hours and five days after exposure to the bacteria. The illness drains the body of fluids, killing a person in only a few hours. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of Cholera cases can be cured if treated early. The population of Haiti is approximately 10 million and an estimated eight million do not have access to clean water. International Action is trying to decrease this figure, by providing chlorinators which purify the water and kill the bacteria. In providing clean and safe water for communities, we are able to contribute to the efforts of completely eradicating Haiti of cholera.
Alexis N. Davis
International Action Intern

L’union fait la Force

Unity is Power: A Haiti for Haitians by Haitians 

Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Sound familiar? This phrase summarizes the world’s view of Haiti since the end of the Duvalier era, an end that has since been marked by a myriad of political and national transitions. Recently the International Crisis Group (ICG) published its final paper examining the current political climate in Haiti. They made a series of recommendations for a Haiti, most of which centered on ways of improving national dialogue and cooperation.

This blog will focus its attention on the recommendations made by the ICG for a national pact. It is within these recommendations that the lack of unity and conversation within Haitian politics is brought to the forefront of ICG’s analysis. The Haitian brand of politics, as defined by ICG, is characterized by the exclusion of Haitian citizens in the political dialogue.  In addition, although the ICG report acknowledges the increasing tension between opposing Haitian political parties, the focalization of this blog will be upon ICG’s recommendations for the structures needed to promote a Haitian involvement in the recommended national consensus. Analysis puts an open national dialogue, something that was missing in the previous regimes, as the solution that would allow Haiti to make strides in reconstruction and economic improvement.

Before exploring the specifics of this national consensus, as detailed by ICG, it is important to understand how Haiti has arrived at its current political challenges. This will promote an understanding for what needs to be overcome to allow for development and progress. Proposals for the involvement of Haitians in a national dialogue have to be promoted by current President Michel Martelly, and all herein future leaders of Haiti.

Haiti’s current brand of Politics

At the head of Haitian politics is current president Michel Martelly. Martelly came to power in May of 2011 with a popularly praised set of initiatives known as the 5 E’s. This is as five point plan with the following focuses:

  1. Employment
  2. État de droit (rule of law)
  3. Education
  4. Environment
  5. Energy

Despite Martelly’s initial popularity because of the 5 E’s, his presidency has been defined by confrontations with Parliament and other sectors that have blocked any sort of widespread consensus. This infighting has severely delayed the implementation of the 5 E’s, which has caused segments  of the Haitian population to lose confidence in Martelly. To make matters worse, severe drought and two disastrous tropical storms have increased food prices and decimated Haiti’s agricultural sector. All in all, it is safe to say that the socio-political climate is significantly strained.

Against this backdrop, the Crisis Group explores a series of suggestions to facilitate the national dialogue believed to be the key to progression.

The current Haitian brand of politics excludes the majority of citizens, leaving a communication gap between the greater public and the elite. Furthermore, national dialogue is inhibited by the institutional instability that followed former president Aristide’s dismantling of institutions. These difficulties are also marked by five national transitions happening simultaneously in Haiti after the end of the Duvalier dictatorship.  These include:

  1. A movement from a non-democratic culture to a democratic society, with erratic armed violence.
  2. This violent democratic society reconciling and re-instating peace, while the government suffers from ineffectual leadership.
  3. The dwindled state developing into a modern nation state that is plagued with chronic and pervasive poverty.
  4. A movement from chronic poverty to a thriving and equitable economy, interrupted by the devastating 2010 earthquake.
  5. Recovery and rebuilding from the 2010 earthquake.

Though the challenges of promoting a national dialogue have plagued Haiti for some time, there has been a recent development in the urgency towards change. There is now a genuine demand from international donors for a push past this stalemate. They are tired of the political instability. Therefore with international pressure the need for a national pact is more immediate than ever to move Haiti into the modern world. Without this national consensus, Martelly faces a failed presidency and Haiti risks international abandonment.

Defining a Haitian national pact

ICG puts a dialogue led by Haitians for Haiti as its first recommendation for Haiti. An inclusive national dialogue would in their opinion be needed to manage reconstruction and development, as well as setting mutually agreed upon long and short term goals. This involves bringing key actors into conversation on the selection of a constitutional council as well as resolving institutional credibility questions about appointments and fair elections. Members of this dialogue must be the very Haitian citizens and members of government ruling Haiti, of which has not always been the case. This national consensus requires the unity of communities, religious leaders, professionals, as well as political leaders.  This would usher an end to the public disenfranchisement felt by Haitian citizens and their government. Haiti must demonstrate a willingness to participate in an inclusive initial dialogue marked by shared priorities and a push to extract commitments from political and civil society.

A voice should be given to all, but a commitment to compromise is also key. Every member of this open dialogue should hold a personal responsibility to move beyond the bitter partisanship and historic disenfranchisement, coming together on national challenges to move Haiti forward in all sectors of society.

Furthermore a mechanism must be created that stimulates greater citizen participation in national decision-making, one that would include all members of Haitian society in a national and progressive dialogue. The business community alongside the religious, professional and political leadership must identify a trusted national institution or set up the public structure that will serve as a bridge to this national accord.

An example of a mechanism, independent of ICG’s suggestions, that could serve as a bridge to a national discussion and accord; is International Action’s new Chlorine Development System (CDS). The CDS is a self-sustaining, Haitian run program that will create a national chlorine distribution network. In doing so, different communities and neighborhood leaders will be united and have the opportunity to discuss local and national issues.  If done correctly, the CDS representative will have some influence in political discussion.

Alongside this recommendation for a national consensus and dialogue, a responsibility from foreign investors and countries is also necessary. These international parties must allow and commit to a Haitian-led national dialogue, and refrain from influencing Haitians and their government based on personal economic benefits or agendas. Similar parties have been significantly responsible for the severe impairment of the domestic rice production. Haiti was self-sufficient in its rice production and remains a country that sees roughly 70% of its population employed in agriculture, yet it has become the fifth largest importer of American rice in the world, importing over 80%. A further $234 million in estimated agricultural losses following rain and flooding in last year’s Hurricane Sandy add to the misery. The country is already strained and cannot afford negative influences from the international community.

The ICG report concludes that Haiti must come to a national consensus for reconstruction and progress. Haitians should dominate this dialogue. Conclusively, emphasis on the need for a Haitian led consensus will allow Haiti to begin to break with the political instability and struggles of its past, while securing that Haiti is pushed forwards towards a modern, democratic, and distinctly Haitian Haiti.

2011-2012 Albendazol Distribution Reports

Image

The International Action team is currently working on releasing a report on its 2011-2012 Albendalzol distribution efforts. Here’s a quick glance of our numbers!

Thanks to our 2011 partnership, a total of 66 schools received aid in all regions of Haiti. Totaling 200,000 pills for 2011.

2012′s cooperation with 13 different local committees and organizations led to the distribution of 413,400 pills.

Bringing our total sum for 2011-2012 at just over half a million! Our deworming campaign’s final number stands at 613,400 pills which were successfully administered and distributed to both children and adults throughout Haiti.

International Action would like to thank all of its partner organizations and community organizers for making our Albendazol distribution a success!

Stay tuned for our full report on our site: http://www.haitiwater.org

Haiti’s Future Looks Bright Three Years After the Earthquake

As some of you may know, in 2010 Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Last Saturday January 12th, 2013 marked the third year anniversary since Haiti was victim to a catastrophic earthquake. We ask that you please take a moment and remember the people who lost their lives and those that were affected by the tragic event.  We have worked hard to make sure that Haitians have clean water, and now, since the earthquake, 900,000 Haitians have access to clean water because of our efforts.

The earthquake killed over 200,000 people, injured over 300,000, and it displaced over 1 million people.  Asides from human loss, the earthquake also damaged thousands of houses, schools, hospitals, and many other public infrastructure. All of these people are still recovering from the devastating effects caused by the earthquake. Many of the Haitians affected  were left without clean water as their personal or community water stations were destroyed.

International Action has been providing clean water to Haiti since 2005. However, our efforts increased significantly since the earthquake destroyed many clean water infrastructures. Our Clean Water Campaign has been very successful and popular in the Haitian community. This program has helped over 900,000 Haitians gain access to clean, safe water through community-led and-based chlorination projects. We have installed and maintained roughly 140 chlorinators throughout Haiti. Neighborhoods consider the chlorinator a blessing. It does such an effective job providing clean water that people take pride of having one in their community.

As a result, we have started a new project, the Chlorine Bank Network, to make our chlorinators sustainable.  The Chlorine Bank Network will provide a community based chlorine distribution network. The idea to build a chlorine distribution system came from the community. They just need some help to get started and organized. With the Chlorine Bank Network we are beginning a project leading towards community empowerment and sustainability.

We are hoping that in the future Haiti will have a sustainable source of clean water, possibly provided by the Chlorine Bank Network.