Haiti earthquake: thousands in dire need of health care and safe water

Haiti Red Cross volunteer Daphney Dorsainvil measuring water quality indicators on the Mass Sanitation Module (MSM) in L'Asile. The MSM is capable of filtering and distributing clean potable water to over 4,000 people affected by the earthquake in L'Asile, Nippes Department.

IFRC Relief team and Haiti Red Cross volunteers at a distribution site in Ferme Leblanc in the aftermath of the August 14th earthquake.

Photo: Canadian Red Cross/Luc Alary

Port au Prince, Panama, Geneva, 7 September 2021— The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that access to health care and safe water is critical following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on 14 August.

More than 212,000 people are affected by damaged water systems, which limits their access to safe water for drinking and hygiene, putting them at risk of water-borne diseases.

Felipe del Cid, IFRC’s Head of Operation in Haiti, said:

“The damage assessments carried out by the Haitian Red Cross and the IFRC show that there are severe health, water, sanitation, and hygiene needs. Providing health care, guaranteeing access to safe water, and promoting hygiene is vital at this stage of the humanitarian response. It can prevent disease outbreaks and save lives.”

To respond to health care and hygiene needs, the Haitian Red Cross and the IFRC have been distributing water and hygiene kits to 2,115 families in the Nippes and Sud departments. They also received other relief goods, such as tarpaulins, blankets and kitchen supplies. In total, the IFRC and its network have already delivered 199 tonnes of relief goods to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. From there, it is transported to the affected areas by road, air or sea.

“More distributions are planned during the coming weeks, despite the challenging context. Delivering humanitarian aid is a complex task due to factors such as damaged roads, food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, and sociopolitical instability,” added del Cid.

Preventing the spread of waterborne diseases through access to safe water and hygiene promotion is at the core of the earthquake response. The Red Cross has already installed two water plants in the remote area of L’Asile. These plants will produce 60,000 liters of safe, clean water a day for 4,000 people. More plants will be set up in the following weeks, starting with one in Grand’Anse.

There is also an increased risk of vector-borne diseases, and respiratory transmission diseases such as COVID-19. This is the result of a combination of displacement, poor shelter options and lack of adequate access to safe water. The Red Cross continues to promote public health measures, including protection measures against COVID-19, to mitigate the risk of outbreaks.

Dr. Guiteau Jean-Pierre, President of the Haitian Red Cross, said:

“Haiti is facing overlapping crises: the pandemic, the earthquake, and the pre-existent humanitarian needs. In coordination with the authorities, communities, partners, and stakeholders, the Red Cross will continue to work tirelessly to help and prepare the most vulnerable communities. Another potential emergency could be life-threatening for them.”

The situation in the affected communities may deteriorate even further, as Haiti will likely face more weather-related disasters in the following weeks and months. The Caribbean is in the middle of its hurricane season, which runs from 1 June to 30 November and peaks between August and October. In anticipation of these disasters, the humanitarian teams on the ground are supporting the Haitian Red Cross’ preparedness plans.

In support of those who are still in dire need, the IFRC has released funding from its emergency fund (DREF) and launched an emergency appeal for 10 million Swiss francs to continue providing life-saving humanitarian aid and support the recovery from the earthquake.

For more information, to arrange interviews with Red Cross staff on the ground, or request B-roll/pictures, please contact:

In Haiti: Naomi Nolte | +31646808096 (WhatsApp) | +509 3616 5890 | [email protected]

In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes | +507 6999-3199 | [email protected]

In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves | +44 7891 857 056 | [email protected]

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