Keeping EkoLakay Active in a Country on Lockdown

An Update from Haiti

Though coverage in the international media remains scarce, Haiti is now entering day 10 of a deepening political crisis that follows months of increasingly challenging conditions faced by the majority of the population. Inflation has been spiraling out of control, making it even more difficult for vulnerable families across the nation to afford basic essentials. Fuel and electricity have become more and more scarce and allegations of corruption against many members of the ruling party, including the President, have led to mass unrest as people demand accountability and transparency for missing development funds.

The protests have kept most of Haiti on lockdown – roads are inaccessible, schools have stayed closed, and stores have been boarded up. Suffering in the communities we serve and throughout the country has become acute as water trucks haven’t been able to pass through neighborhoods and food has become harder to access. Since we last wrote, the president and prime minister have now addressed the nation, but the uncertainty and tension remain palpable. Demonstrators are calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, an action he has categorically stated he will not undertake.

Keeping the EkoLakay Service Active

Though our hearts remain heavy as we watch these events unfold around us, there isn’t a day when we haven’t been deeply moved by the courage and commitment of SOIL’s staff, who have worked around the clock to ensure that our lifesaving sanitation service stays operational. We work in a country that’s one of the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change and where far too many are vulnerable to endemic poverty. SOIL feels it is our responsibility to have teams and systems in place so that operations can continue in the face of crises, as we are steadfast in our dedication to protecting the families we serve from the negative consequences of living without a safely managed sanitation service.

We wanted to take a moment to express our gratitude for the kind words of encouragement and concern that so many of you have shared throughout the past week, and to share some of the ways SOIL has managed to provide continual services when most of the country has been forced to a standstill.

Since February 7th, SOIL has been able to collect containers from all but four families using EkoLakay’s household sanitation service – something that has at times seemed impossible. Our focus has shifted away from other parts of our service to the basics: making sure that toilets remain functional by maintain collection services, dumping waste at the composting site, and monitoring bins of waste undergoing the transformation process. and putting less focus on other parts of our service. Here’s how we’ve done it:

+ Central focal points have helped SOIL ensure that we have a place in between the urban communities we serve and the composting waste treatment facilities we operate just outside of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. In Cap-Haitien, we’ve been able to make good use of our depot to do this, and in Port-au-Prince, neighbors have allowed us to preposition materials at a park that’s adjacent to the service zone. This has allowed SOIL to have vehicles, staff, and clean containers ready to go out into the communities as soon as there is a window where roads become passable. When SOIL’s teams learn that a road may be open, our crews head out right away and work to get through as much of the collection route as they can .

+ SMS communication – Though we’ve made every effort to get to each household on time, SOIL has been regularly in touch via text with EkoLakay customers to let them know about delays when blockades have disrupted our normal collection schedule. When we share that service may be interrupted, we’ve also been encouraging customers to make the best use of their available cover material in case we’re delayed in arriving.

+ As it’s been safe to do so, staff who live close to our composting sites have come to work to dump and sanitize the containers from that day’s collection, but we’ve also hired and trained day laborers who live directly adjacent to our facilities, meaning that they can more easily get to the sites to work even if our full team isn’t able to make the trip safely.

+ Adjusting the schedule – What we’ve seen in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien is that mornings have been relatively calmer than the afternoons, so our teams have been getting out into SOIL’s service zones as early as possible to get as far as they are able to before protests intensify in the afternoons.

Maintaining service during the lockdown has been an enormous effort, and we’re proud of what our team has been able to do together. To our colleagues that have given it their all these past weeks, and to all of SOIL’s friends around the world, we say chapo ba (hats off). Thank you for supporting us in the struggle to increase access to lifesaving sanitation.

Please keep Haiti in your hearts in the days and weeks to come.

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