The most amazing element of the Holiday season is neither the surprising gifts nor the delicious food; it is the loving spirit of togetherness and love that drives the holiday magic. When fully understood and embraced as such, suddenly, the foods taste better, the lights shine brighter, and the moments seem perfect.
A reason to give thanks! Clean Water in the city of l'Estère!
Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is two days away. Although it has been a very difficult year for many of us, Thanksgiving Day always offers us an amazing opportunity to reflect and express gratitude for the often-overlooked blessings in our lives. Without a doubt, if you are able to read this newsletter, you are blessed in so many ways. And you may ask, how? According to one of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen, the answer is very simple; one simply has to realize that life is the best thing ever, and you have no business taking it for granted. The people of Haiti understand this too well.
The great American novelist and activist, James Baldwin, once said that we must look unblinkingly at the circumstances, confront the constructed reality, face the tears of the wounded, and harness ourselves to a great collective effort toward justice.
Two weeks ago, a powerful storm plowed through Haiti, destroying thousands of tents and battering camp clinics, schools, and childcare facilities. The vast majority of the 1.3 million homeless in Port-au-Prince have little more than flimsy tarps protecting them from the onslaught of additional seasonal hurricanes. Countless "bladders"—large plastic bags continuously filled by trucks for water distribution in displaced persons camps—were also badly damaged.
Last week, a standard early-fall storm swept through the city of Port-au-Prince. In a span of 10 minutes, the strong winds damaged thousands of tents, injured many, and killed at least 5 people. With most of the quake's 1.5 million homeless survivors still living in sprawling tent cities, the heavy rainfall left them at a dangerous public health crossroad. The precarious water supply is forcing many to drink from the rainwater flowing from gutters and sewers. Hence, more people will be fighting deadly waterborne diseases.
Inscribed in the middle of the Haitian flag is the powerful national motto, L'union fait la force, literally translated in English as, unity creates strength. Indeed, International Action believes that through partnerships with other organizations, our collective work will have a greater impact in our respective target communities. Without a doubt, intra-agency cooperation with various entities has been a key element to our overall success in Haiti's water and sanitation sector.
In the last month, International Action has reached an additional 21,235 Haitians with safe, potable water, and more and more charitable and humanitarian aid groups are getting interested in our crucial, lifesaving work and chlorinator technology.
Last week, I returned from conducting a 6-month post-quake assessment of our clean water program in Haiti. What I saw was truly heart-wrenching. Vast stretches of displaced persons camps and countless makeshift shelters on the street. People collecting filthy grey-water from trash-strewn drainage ditches. Open sewers.
Women and children walk long distances for International Action-supplied clean water
Almost 5 months after the quake, Port-au-Prince's public water infrastructure still lies in disarray. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, while diarrhea cases have remained low in the city, limited water supply for affected communities and displaced persons camps has translated into inadequate quantities of water for even basic hygiene. Many camps have already seen a rise in skin diseases.
A few weeks ago, we were urged to join Global Giving – a website devoted to helping select causes. We did so.
To qualify, we needed to pass Global Giving's Open Challenge to have 50 donors give a minimum of $4,000 by midnight April 26th. Our donors came through, along with their friends and family. So far, we have raised $6,353 from 74 donors, but there are still 2 weeks to go.
In Haiti, more than 230,000 have lost their lives to last January's quake. One estimate predicted that the final death toll may reach as high as 500,000. More casualties from preventable, water-borne diseases, like chronic diarrhea, hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid in the upcoming rainy season are expected.
March 22 is World Water Day, an opportunity to focus attention on the crucial need for freshwater worldwide and the ability to responsibly manage it. This year's theme is "Clean Water for a Healthy World." The day offers a chance for governments, civil society groups, and individual citizens to show support for safe, affordable, and sustainable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) internationally.
For the past few weeks, all of our resources have been devoted to responding to the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti last month. As you know, much of the pre-existing water system suffered extensive damage during the quake, and tens of thousands in Port-au-Prince remain without a safe, reliable water supply.
The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is creating a map of the Haiti water system based on information from multiple water sources, including International Action. Because this map will have precise data about the water infrastructure in Haiti, it will aid humanitarian efforts to provide water in the wake of the crisis.
We have received gifts totaling $200,000 from Child Relief International, the Mitchell Foundation, Glickenhaus Foundation, Ed Rawson's Ravenscroft Foundation, Arch Chemicals, and the Chlorine Chemistry Foundation. This includes the first payment of $100,000 for a $500,000 pledge. The funding covers our initial spending for chlorine, chlorinators, staff, and water truck rentals in the Haitian Earthquake crisis.
Dalebrun Esther, our director of operations in Haiti, sent photos along with his update about the situation in Haiti after the earthquake.
I am negotiating with owners of private reservoirs in Cité Soleil. No food or water is available in the worst slum, Cité Soleil. I will focus our work on bringing clean water to Cité Soleil by working with owners of reservoirs in the communities.
We need your help right now in Port-au-Prince. The earthquake knocked out many neighborhood water tanks, but 28 have survived. However, no water is coming to these tanks from the local water agency (CAMEP). So Dalebrun Esther – our Haitian Director – has designed a system to supply water.
We are helping the US task force going to Haiti to rebuild the water system in Port-au-Prince. We have given them our list of all water systems in the capital city, gallons each produces and population served.