Damning the Flood: SOIL’s Toilets Help Prevent Cholera During the Recent Flooding in Cap-Haitien
The rain started on the evening of November 8 and fell for 2 days straight. A combination of deforested hillsides and inadequate drainage meant that the city of Cap Haitien was flooding within hours. SOIL’s office in the center of downtown was surrounded by canals of dirty water, over 3 feet deep in some places, making it impossible to see the drainage holes and limiting pedestrian movement throughout the city. We were very lucky in that our office is located on the second floor and sustained only minimal damage from leaking walls.
The community of Shada where SOIL has worked for 6 years was not so lucky. Most family’s homes were flooded and many lost their possessions. Children were forced to walk barefoot through Shada’s alleyways in a flood of water carrying garbage and sewage from overflowing latrines.
As of today the water has begun to recede, and people are busy trying to salvage what they can. But the real risk of storms like these cannot be seen until afterwards. Cholera and other water borne diseases spread quickly in storm waters and can take several days to manifest.
We wanted to take this opportunity to thank our courageous team in Cap Haitien, all of whom have been working through the weekend to ensure that our toilets remain open and to help distribute tarps and hygiene supplies. We are especially grateful to our toilet managers, who stayed out in the rain for days to make sure that the toilets were open and clean and available to the community. While most everything else in Cap Haitien closed down, our toilets stayed open and we are so proud of the commitment of our staff and volunteers.
This storm also clearly demonstrated the importance of ecological sanitation in areas with high groundwater. While many of the latrines in Cap Haitien flooded and drainage ditches for water borne sewage overflowed, SOIL’s toilets ensured that contaminated human wastes were safely contained in sealed drums and quickly removed from the community to be treated at our compost site.
I want to close by thanking you, our supporters, who have been so generous in these past months in helping us to keep these public toilets open. Your contributions have truly helped to protect a community that we love deeply and we are very grateful.
More images from the floods are below and you can click here for a video of the storm.
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