PORT AU PRINCE - Thousands of Haitians have been trained in disaster preparedness and cholera prevention and hundreds of works carried out to reduce suffering in the capital’s camps and neighbourhoods.
|Theatre shows at Haitian IDP camp have raised awareness of cholera prevention and treatment as well as disaster risk reduction. Photo: UNOPS/Nathalie Angibeau|
Haiti has been exposed to a large variety of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones. There are currently more than half a million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the numbers of vulnerable families is high.
Cholera remains a serious health concern, with Haiti having the highest cholera rate in the world. According to the latest UN reports, cholera has infected nearly 5 percent of the population and killed more than 6,000 since the start of the 2010 outbreak. The epidemic threatens to worsen with the year's second rainy season which causes the disease to spread given the country’s poor sanitation and the large concentrations of people in relief camps.
With funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UNOPS is implementing a broad range of disaster risk reduction activities throughout the country, such as cholera prevention using theatre, infrastructure mitigation works, latrine emptying and cleaning, and the distribution of medical kits. These actions are benefitting hundreds of thousands of Haitians.
|Mitigation works at the IDP camps are enhancing disaster preparedness for the rainy season. Photo: UNOPS/Marc Lee Steed|
In order to reduce geophysical and climate-related risks, UNOPS has implemented infrastructure mitigation works such as canal cleaning and the construction of retaining walls in more than 80 camps and neighbourhoods. These works reduce the number of camps being flooded.
The mitigation works followed over 250 technical evaluations of high risk camps and neighbourhoods. Over 10,000 individuals from these vulnerable communities have been employed since the earthquake for mitigation works managed by UNOPS in the country. These teams implemented embankment protection around the camps, built solid drainage canals and conducted major drainage and canal clearing works, that among others, have helped reduce the loss of human lives and the incidence of cholera during the rainy season.
Cholera response and theatre
As part of the cholera response funded by Sida, a broad sensitization and information campaign took place in Port au Prince and the area of Grand’Anse, training some 1,000 Ministry of Health agents, community volunteers and camp committees. It also raised awareness door- to- door on cholera prevention and treatment as well as on disaster risk reduction for over 260,000 individuals.
The programme used several approaches to reach the broadest possible number of people in camps and neighbourhoods, such as training more trainers, distributing instructive flyers and individual visits by information teams.
Theatre shows proved particularly effective for reaching larger audiences. More than 65 theatre presentations on cholera and DRR took place in around 25 camps, educating internally displaced people on how to prepare and respond in the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes or floods. They also raised awareness on the symptoms, treatment and nature of water-borne diseases such as cholera to avoid stigmatization and promote treatment of the diseases.
Each show gathered around 100 to 125 people and conveyed key messages on disaster response and cholera through music, songs and comic theatre, actively involving the audience to increase the effectiveness of the messages.
UNOPS information teams have also trained the committees and leaders of these camps and neighbourhoods in community-based disaster reduction techniques and are in close communication with them during hurricane alerts to receive reliable assessments of the situation of the camps.
Health and sanitation
|Distribution of garbage cans at the IDP camps as part of the cholera prevention efforts. Photo: UNOPS/Nathalie Angibeau|
As part of the programme, UNOPS also repaired and emptied nearly 700 latrines in 52 IDP camps, benefiting some 40,000 people.
Furthermore, 15,000 kits of oral rehydration salts, 34,000 water purification tablets and nearly 170 garbage cans were distributed to targeted communities in camps and vulnerable neighbourhoods to increase their preparedness and reduce the impact of cholera and water-borne diseases.