IRC Builds Washing Facilities and Latrines to Help Prevent Disease in Haiti
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is building washing facilities and latrines for thousands of displaced Haitians living in makeshift outdoor settlements in the capital city.
Work on 20 latrines and 20 bathing stations has been completed at two settlements, including latrines designed for use by disabled people, and will soon be completed at two other sites. Altogether at the four locations, the IRC will build 66 latrines and 30 washing stations that will serve some 4,000 people. Each washing facility will include separate spaces for men and women, said Sam Gonzaga, the IRC Emergency Response Team’s environmental health coordinator. Gonzaga says women’s facilities are being constructed first and in places that are well-lit and relatively safe.
This will be welcome news for people camped out in Place de Pigeon, one of the settlements where the IRC is working, located in the downtown city park, Champ de Mars. Since the earthquake struck on January 12, thousands of displaced families have been living in the park while washing and going to the bathroom in the open air, raising serious health and hygiene concerns.
The IRC’s construction of latrines is part of an effort to avert a sanitation crisis that could lead to outbreaks of cholera and other deadly diseases in overcrowded and unhygienic settlements packed with earthquake survivors.
“We have identified 26 sites around Port-au-Prince that are in critical need of improved sanitation and where hundreds of latrines need to be built,” Gonzaga said. “People are literally living amid their own waste and there is a growing danger of epidemics.”
In the four settlements where the IRC is currently working, community members play an active role in deciding their water, sanitation and other needs. Local sanitation committees select workers, for example who are then hired by the IRC to build the latrines and washing facilities for their own community.
Ensuring access to clean water is also critical to prevent the spread of disease, especially in Port-au-Prince, where an estimated 700,000 people have been displaced by the earthquake.
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