Over half a million children at risk of waterborne diseases in Haiti

According to UNICEF, over 540,000 children in the southwest of earthquake-stricken Haiti are now at risk of contracting waterborne infections.

Acute respiratory infections, diarrhoeal illnesses, cholera, and malaria are all on the rise in southern Haiti, where over half a million children lack access to shelter, drinking water, and hygiene services.

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“Thousands of earthquake-affected children and families’ lives are now at jeopardy simply because they lack access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Cholera has not been recorded in Haiti since February 2019, but re-emergence of cholera and other waterborne infections is a genuine threat that is growing by the day unless urgent and tougher action is taken.”

Only around half of the healthcare facilities in the three earthquake-affected departments had basic access to water before the earthquake. Nearly 60% of individuals in the three most damaged departments do not have access to safe drinking water as a result of the earthquake. Thousands of people whose homes have fallen without access to toilets as a result of the earthquake’s destruction.

UNICEF is working with the National Directorate for Water and Sanitation (DINEPA) and civil society partners to enhance affected families’ access to water, sanitation, and hygiene:

Water trucking systems, six water treatment plants, and twenty-two bladders provide safe drinking water to approximately 73,600 people.

The provision of over 7,000 hygiene kits, which included domestic water treatment items, soap, water storage, handwashing equipment, and hygiene pads, benefited over 35,200 people.

UNICEF delivered over 65,000 water purification pills, 41 bladders, three water treatment units, and family hygiene kits a week after the earthquake rocked Haiti. UNICEF has already placed an order for 31,200 more hygiene kits. UNICEF, the sole UN agency delivering safe drinking water to the impacted population, expects to provide WASH assistance to 500,000 people.

UNICEF is urging local governments to ensure that humanitarian organizations can function safely and to provide relief assistance to earthquake-affected populations. The earthquake that struck Haiti on August 14 has exacerbated an already difficult humanitarian situation characterized by persistent political instability, socioeconomic crisis, rising food insecurity and malnutrition, gang-related violence and internal displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the influx of Haitians from the Dominican Republic.

UNICEF is proposing a humanitarian appeal for children (HAC) of US$73.3 million in addition to the US$48.8 million appeals made for 2021 to expand up its initiatives in response to the earthquake and internally displaced persons. So yet, only about 1% of the required funds have been received.

UNICEF is urging the international community to send more funding as soon as possible to help with the humanitarian response and to avoid the spread of waterborne diseases in Haiti following the earthquake.

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