Five years on: Haitian communities take health into their own hands

تم النشر: 13 يناير 2015 15:58 CET

“Before the Red Cross came here, there were many things I didn’t know but now we have a lot of activities in the area to educate people and I know a whole lot now,” says Ema Samedi. “For example, before we used to have a lot of cases of cholera but not anymore. People still get the flu, but they don’t get fevers as easily as they used to before.” Ema is community facilitator for the Community-Based Health and First-Aid programme implemented by the Canadian Red Cross in the village of Corail-Anna, in the mountainous regions overlooking the southern town of Jacmel.

Ema is proud of her role in the community, “I talk to people, sensitizing them about all kinds of diseases found in this area. Personally, I feel much stronger in the community because the Red Cross gives us facilitators in Corail-Anna a certain importance. They gave us important information on how to stay healthy, and health comes first.”

Thanks to a joint project between the Canadian Red Cross and the Netherlands Red Cross,  the residents of Corail-Anna have had access to comprehensive health and hygiene training  during the first phase of the project. “When we participate in the Red Cross training we don’t keep the information to ourselves and our family, we walk around the community, we go house to house sharing the information with them to let them know how to wash their hands, how to  take care of themselves, and that they shouldn’t defecate on the ground anymore to protect their health,” Ema says.

In the second phase of the project, residents have been participating in building latrines with technical guidance and material support from the Red Cross, but it has been quite challenging. “We thank the Red Cross and the engineers for this latrine project. They were very patient with us because we have to go very far away to collect water and we don’t have proper roads to transport the building materials for the latrines. When we had to bring sand it was difficult. We used the donkeys but we did as best we could.”

Another component of the sensitization programme that has changed the status quo has been the distribution of special water filters made of clay. “People who have filters don’t drink unfiltered water anymore. If you go to a neighbour’s house and he offers you water to drink, people ask if the water is filtered because everybody knows now that if you drink unfiltered or untreated water, you can get sick,” Ema says. “Even if it’s rain water they will still ask if you filtered it.”  

Thanks to your support over the last five years, the Red Cross has been able to assist more than 91,000 households with increased availability of water through the rehabilitation of water systems or the creation of new improved water sources. Red Cross projects have provided over  39,000 households with access to an improved sanitation facility which is a luxury in many parts of Haiti.