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Rehabilitating the water network to combat drought

Jacmel’s Tepac and UNICEF staff discussing in front of a reservoir on the capture of the source Domingue

The droughts experienced by several departments of the country have put a strain about people in terms of access to drinking water. Especially in the Southeast department where communities are often far away and live in remote mountains. To facilitate access to water in these areas, UNICEF is undertaking a program of source rehabilitation and water abstraction, in cooperation with the National Directorate for Drinking Water and Sanitation (DINEPA). USAID funding has made it possible to undertake these activities in several departments of the country such as: North-West, South-East, South and Grand’Anse.

Jacmel May 31, 2018- The communes of Jacmel, Valley of Jacmel and Bainet are among the beneficiaries, because several drinking water supply systems (SAEP) and pumps with human motricities (PMH) presented an advanced state of degradation. For example, the drinking water supply system of Domingue, in the communal section of Bas Cap Rouge, 1st section of the municipality of Jacmel has benefited from the rehabilitation work. Now, more than 8,500 people have access to safe drinking water.

The TEPAC, agents of the National Directorate of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DINEPA), represent the spearhead in monitoring the management of drinking water supply systems (SAEP) in remote communities. Together with the local water committees, they put in place a mechanism, which allows the transparent and efficient management of the systems, linking the population to the water management committees.

A situation that was serious

The old tank

In Bas-Cap-Rouge, the situation was very difficult because the too low flow of the catchment source could not supply the entire network. People had difficulty getting water. “The locality has faced a serious problem of drought; the source has dried up. The population had no choice but to fetch water from the riverbed, “explains Anel Colin, TEPAC for the commune of Jacmel.

The SAEP faced serious technical problems with the water, the water supply line was cut off, there were several leaks on the distribution line. A lot of water loss was noticed. There were 12 fountains that were not working.

“Before, people used to draw water from the river. Most people who used to bathe in the river, defecated on the ground. This was a public health problem, and people who were drinking water were getting sick, not to mention cholera, “he says.

Fleurant Louissaint, secretary of the Committee for Provision of Drinking Water and Sanitation (CAEPA), explains the vital importance of the network and the changes in the lives of the inhabitants. He remembers the difficult period of drought when the river beds were dry, the trees were dying, the cattle heads were dying, it was really a disaster.

“In the past, people had to walk several miles to find the water, now it is no longer the case. Residents are happy with this improvement, it has improved the living conditions of people. Capture is a worthwhile initiative, “he says, adding that he wants state support for reforestation around the area’s water sources.

Manage the distribution of water

A young boy collecting water

DINEPA, UNICEF, Solidarités International, with funding from USAID, have undertaken work that has practically changed the lives of the population by facilitating access to water. Anel Colin, said to be satisfied at this level because it brings a big change in the community.

He deplores the cutting of the trees that were in the source of the river, which results in a decrease of the source.

To ensure the effective management and maintenance of the system, CAEPA has been formed with community members to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the water service. “The committee in concert with the people are developing a distribution schedule. My role is to collect the grievances of the population and find solutions to the problems, “he recalls.

Ensuring Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 6 states that we must “ensure access for all to water and sanitation and ensure sustainable management of water resources”.

Hamidou Maiga, UNICEF WASH Officer, emphasizes the importance of meeting this SDG. “Our mandate at UNICEF is to protect the lives of children and adolescents. Drinking water means less risk of getting sick. We stand alongside DINEPA in the implementation of public policies regarding access to water and sanitation, “he adds.

 

 

Community involvement at the heart of access to drinking water

A local resident drawing water

In remote areas of the country, access to safe drinking water can be a major challenge, considering the relief configuration and the availability of natural water sources. UNICEF, with funding from USAID, is implementing source capture and drinking water projects. Often community involvement is essential for the success of these projects. The locality of La Vallette, in the South-East department is a striking example.

Jacmel, 31st May 2018- As part of the fight against drought that hit several departments of the country including the Southeast, UNICEF in collaboration with USAID undertook work of rehabilitation of water sources in several localities. The La Valette source in the Montagne section La Voûte, 6th section of the town of Jacmel, is one of the beneficiaries.

Alma Oplan, the keen eye, the straight and decided step is the coordinator of Casec Section La Montagne. He was one of the great artisans, at the community level of the rehabilitation of the source of La Montagne. “As a development agent, our role is to work for the benefit of our communal section for the well-being of the community,” he says.

Problems that were recurrent

The rugged terrain has favored soil erosion in the area; the increase in the population has led to overexploitation of the system; natural disasters such as hurricanes (the earthquake, cyclones Emilie and Katrina and Hurricane Matthew …) have accelerated the degradation of structures. Regarding the catchment: there were cracks on the superstructure, the hatch was damaged, the nearby environment degraded. So, the rest of the network could not be powered.

The lack of ownership of the source by the community has led to a lack of monitoring of the works. People did not take care of the old catchment and threw filth, there was no cleanliness. “The situation was very difficult because people were drawing water, close to where the animals were drinking,” he says.

The community was involved

A water pump in a locality of South-East

Community members saw the need to repair the water source, so they made the request to the National Directorate of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DINEPA). USAID provided funding to UNICEF for the project. Solidarités International was chosen as the project manager.

When he talks about the realization of this project, a broad smile illuminates the face of Oplan. “People have taken ownership of the project from the beginning. They participated by giving and bringing construction materials to the site; sand, rocks, blocks, among others “, he says.

Alma Oplan was one of the driving forces behind the mobilization. He sensitized the inhabitants on the importance of the rehabilitation of the spring. He contributed to the food of the workers. He said he was satisfied with the result, although he thinks there may be some improvement.

The bulk of the work consisted of: the rehabilitation, the capture through the clogging of the leak and the cleaning of the environment close to the system; the repair of the internal and external water tightness of the tank; partial rehabilitation of masonry and plumbing; clogging and protection of pipelines at the catchment level; the construction of a retaining wall for the protection of the structure.

Per Jacques Touchard Adia, WASH specialist at UNICEF, the rehabilitation of the source will change the life of the population. Because the impact in their life is real and palpable. “It’s a big difference for the people of La Montagne, because before it was difficult to find drinking water. The population had water in quantity but which was not drinkable. The catchment and reservoir were contaminated with coliforms. UNICEF, in support of the Haitian government, has allowed these remote communities to access water. It will save the lives of children. We thank USAID for its important support to the realization of this project’’, he concludes.

Eliminating Cholera from Haiti – The last mile is the most difficult

Michel Ange supervising the a rapid response team at Carrefour

Port-au-Prince, April 2018: “It could be one of the most important activities happening in Haiti now,” states Michel Ange, team leader of one of the 58 rapid response teams working relentlessly to eliminate cholera in Haiti. “We are saving lives, educating the local population around hygiene practices, and helping to eradicate a killer bacterium.”

In 2017, for the first time since cholera was introduced to Haiti in 2010, the epidemic was under control and the highest suspected cases were concentrated in three out of the ten Departments: West (31%), Artibonite (29%) and Centre (19%). 2018 began with the lowest numbers recorded, 995 cases between January 1st and March 31st  compared to 4,248 cases for the same period last year (source: DELR/MSPP).  This evolution is largely due to a strategy that combines reinforced local coordination, surveillance, solid rapid response, and enhanced prevention through water chlorination and intensified hygiene awareness. With the support of UNICEF, the Ministry of Health launched this “alert-response” strategy in 2014, resulting in the activation of rapid response teams that are staffed with agents of the Ministry of Health response teams and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). It required three years of close monitoring and technical support to reach a satisfactory level of performance, and now the results speak for themselves. Due to the availability of funding, all rapid response teams were activated in 2017, resulting in an unprecedented response rate of 95 percent to all suspected cases.

“We are good at what we do. You can see that in how the number of cases has dropped in the last year,” states Michel Ange. She is not showing off but simply stating a fact. Never has the chance to eliminate cholera been so close, yet the way there was hard. “It was an uphill battle but organizations like Solidarity International and UNICEF didn’t give up at all.”

UNICEF and the Ministry of Health continue to support a network of response teams nationwide. Four NGOs, are working hand in hand with the 13 teams from the Ministry of Health, called EMIRA (in French, Equipe Mobile d’Intervention Rapide), to deliver a complete package of activities: visiting affected households and an average of 12 houses living in a 50m perimeter around the patient’s house and establishing a “cordon sanitaire” to avoid the disease from spreading in the community. The teams provide oral prophylaxis to the patients and their families, disinfect homes, and distribute oral rehydration salt, soap and water chlorination tablets. They also secure water sources by establishing emergency water chlorination points or support DINEPA (National Directorate for Drinking Water and Sanitation) to chlorinate the water systems in affected areas when needed.

A rapid response team is distributing supplies to fight against cholera

These NGO teams are composed 100 percent with skilled Haitian professionals who have been trained to investigate and respond to suspected cases of cholera and other types of acute diarrhea, which directly benefit children as diarrhea remains one the main causes of child morbidity in Haiti.

Fund predictability also allowed for the improvement of complementary health and hygiene promotion activities and community mobilization, activities, crucial to ensure quick outbreak control. In addition to the work of response teams, UNICEF’s NGO partners deployed community engagement teams which reinforced the rapid response by conducting hygiene awareness interventions in schools, churches, places or events gathering people in affected areas, and food hygiene sensitization in public market places.

In the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince, rapid response agents like Michel Ange have contributed to respond to approximately 5,000 suspected cholera cases in 2017, and to sensitize over 360,000 people in affected neighborhoods. It is a labor of passion and love. “Haiti is my home, my country, and I love it with all my heart. Of course, it is a difficult place, but with the help of organizations like Solidarités International and UNICEF, we are learning techniques to address our problems, to take over,” says Michel Ange with a smile. “My children will grow up in a stronger Haiti, a better Haiti than the one I had…we will all help each other to learn and grow together.”

Today, the situation invokes optimism but the fight is not over. To avoid a resurgence of the epidemic, an effective set-up must be maintained to ensure surveillance, prevention and response until the last case is gone; this requires steady and predictable funding.

Haiti: Institutional death due to Cholera, Epidemiological Week 7 (February 2018):

Eliminate cholera in Haiti by the rapid response teams

UNICEF Haiti works with its partners such Solidarités International to support the rapid response strategy of the Ministry of Public Health and Population in order to eliminate cholera with its rapid response teams. This is the story of Michel-Ange

Rapid response teams: a real rampart against cholera

A rapid response team in the Department of Centre

The numbers of cholera cases have significantly reduced in 2017. They have never been so low. The new Cholera strategy has paid off. At the center of attention are the rapid response teams, who are true warriors. The members will fight cholera in the targeted departments, in good weather or rainy weather. Mainly in the department of Centre (Plateau Central), where the distances to be covered are sometimes immense. UNICEF is one of the key players in the fight against cholera in the country.

Mirebalais, November 23, 2017-The all-terrain car is rolling on the rocks, the road is not good. It is necessary to zigzag between the crevasses, to avoid the mud. It rained last night, but conditions are acceptable to reach Menaj, a locality close to the town of Laschaobas (Centre).

ACTED’s rapid response team, UNICEF’s partner, with their recognizable green T-shirts from several meters, is on the warpath. They come to conduct an awareness session. But the community is quiet because today is market day. However, there are still people who will be able to listen to messages and receive hygiene kits if it’s needed.

A member of the team with a loudspeaker has already broken off to bring together the people who are present. In the empty valley, his voice is echoed. He managed to gather about twenty women and a few children. Men are in the fields.

Important to continue awareness

A sensitization session

The team begins to raise awareness about hygiene. Today, the team is there for a reinforcement of awareness. It usually takes place after the distribution of hygiene kits. These kits contain soap, oral rehydration serum, and aquatabs (chlorine tablets) and a pail with a robinet.

“You have to wash your hands in crucial moments, before eating and after getting out of the toilet. Use treated water for your health and that of your children’’. After these messages, the team asks the residents who do not live too far to bring the water they use to test the chlorine residual, to check if they have followed the instructions.

The activities of rapid response teams consist of three parts: investigation, response, awareness. “Regarding the situation for the Lower Plateau, it’s pretty quiet because we went from 38 cases per week to 14 cases and for the moment it’s only 7 cases,” says Jennyfer Joseph, cholera project manager for the Lower – Central tray.

To travel long distances

One of the biggest challenges for rapid response teams is returning to the long distances they must travel to reach remote locations. Sometimes it can take hours or even days. Because they must sleep on the way, to continue their activities and to make sure that everyone is sensitized to the principles of hygiene.

“In some mountainous places, even mules cannot pass, but we have to go if there are cases of cholera. It’s part of our mission. Sometimes we do missions of several days in these localities to reach everyone, “recalls Nadia Delmond, emergency team leader for Acted, recalling that the reception of people is always positive.