Leah Nevada Page 27 October 2010

Cholera Outbreak Emergency Update

Thank you for keeping us in your hearts as you read the news about the spreading cholera outbreak in Haiti. SOIL has the dubious honor of being one of the very few organizations or institutions actually treating human waste (as opposed to the typical practice of dumping it untreated into locations where it continues to contaminate the groundwater) and with this comes a serious level of responsibility. SOIL is taking every precautionary measure possible to contain the extent of the outbreak, including:

  • Continuing to provide clean and hygienic sanitation services for over 20,000 people in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region and 5,000 people in Northern Haiti.
  • Setting up cholera information stations in every one of the thirty one camps in which we work in Port-au-Prince. A team of health promoters will be onsite to provide water treatment tablets and information on the closest clinic to seek medical care.
  • Implementing new measures at SOIL's urban waste compost sites to protect groundwater and contain any possible contaminated waste.
  • Setting up strict disinfecting procedures for all trucks entering or leaving SOIL's compost sites.
  • Monitoring the availability of treated water and clean hand-washing stations at the camps where SOIL is working as well as the other camps throughout the city to ensure accountability in the provision of appropriate sanitation services.
  • Working with the government ministry of water and sanitation (DINEPA) to set new standards for the containment of sites receiving human waste in light of the increased risk of cholera spreading from these locations.

In addition, in the past few days we have:

  • Educated all SOIL staff who come into contact with human waste on safe practices for the safe treatment and disposal of waste.
  • Visited every single family in every one of the thirty one camps in which we work in Port-au-Prince in order to pass out information on the prevention and treatment of cholera.
  • Distributed 520 hygiene kits, buckets and soap to the most vulnerable families in the communities in which we work.

Thank you all so much for all your kind wishes and your support over the past few days and thank you to our friend Emily Johnston of Seattle who wrote us to say: “The first reason to think about cholera in Haiti is basic decency; people are dying because of the lack of functional sanitation systems and a few pennies worth of oral rehydration solution. There is nothing acceptable about this.” We couldn’t agree more strongly. This devastating tragedy demonstrates all too poignantly how the lack of access to basic sanitation services is undermining the recovery effort in Haiti. As the director of our Haitian sister organization, SOL, Baudelair Magloire puts it: "Without health, we have nothing."

Together we will fight this outbreak and together we will do everything we can to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Thank you for joining us. Sincerely, the SOIL team

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