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Haiti: UNICEF ensures thousands have safe drinking water

A mother and daughter attend a handwashing training session in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
© UNICEF/Ralph Tedy Erol
A mother and daughter attend a handwashing training session in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Haiti: UNICEF ensures thousands have safe drinking water

Humanitarian Aid

More than 30,000 people displaced by gang violence in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, have access to safe drinking water thanks to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners. 

Port-au-Prince has been in the grip of armed groups for several years now, and roughly two months ago they launched coordinated attacks which paralyzed the metropolitan area. 

Since then, UNICEF, alongside the National Directorate for Water and Sanitation (DINEPA) and partners, has provided more than 2.6 million litres of safe drinking water to children and families across 20 sites housing those displaced.

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Dire conditions, disease threat 

The recent escalation of violence has compounded the already dire situation faced by children and families, who already lack essential support and facilities.

The current rainy season has only added to their plight, leading to major flooding in lowland areas of the capital and the resurgence of cholera cases in Cité Soleil, an extremely impoverished neighbourhood. 

"With no drinking quality water and adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities, displaced children are exposed to water-borne diseases, more specifically to a widespread cholera outbreak" said Ruben Um Bayiha, Chief of UNICEF's Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Programme. 

‘Navigating a war zone’ 

Furthermore, he said “operating in such an insecure and volatile environment is akin to navigating a war zone every day.”   

Despite the challenges, UNICEF and partners are stepping up efforts to protect children and families and provide the lifesaving support they desperately need, he stressed. 

Supporting displaced families 

UNICEF leads WASH response in Haiti, providing over half of overall support, ensuring safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services at all displacement sites.  

Initiatives include trucking water, treating piped water, repairing water supply and sanitation systems, building temporary latrines, providing essential hygiene items, and delivering hygiene messages. 

UNICEF said its WASH efforts “yielded significant outcomes” during March, with over 700,000 gallons (2.66 million litres) of chlorinated water distributed to displaced families and children.  

Collaborative efforts with partners such as the aid organizations Solidarités International, ORRAH, and ACTED, have ensured that essential needs were met even in the most challenging circumstances. 

Furthermore, UNICEF and partners have distributed hygiene kits to almost 11,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) across six sites.  

A schoolgirl in Port-au-Prince holds up a sign in French which reads 'peace'.
© UNICEF/Ralph Tedy Erol
A schoolgirl in Port-au-Prince holds up a sign in French which reads 'peace'.

‘Crisis will worsen’ 

UNICEF has also prioritized improving sanitary conditions in the high-risk IDP sites, including removing and safely disposing about 78 cubic metres of fecal sludge from three sites accommodating roughly 7,000 people. 

Mr. Um Bayiha upheld the agency’s commitment to addressing evolving needs, particularly as the region braces for the upcoming hurricane season. 

Yet, he warned that "this crisis will worsen unless the response is scaled up urgently,” underscoring the need for funding. 

UNICEF aims to support more than 884,000 people across Haiti this year to access quality water for drinking and domestic needs, as well as appropriate sanitation services and critical WASH supplies.

Thousands receive meals

Meanwhile, UN humanitarians and partners been supporting people affected by recent gang clashes in Delmas commune in Port-au-Prince.

Meals, shelter and other supplies have been provided to displaced persons and the host community, and the hope is that assistance will ramp up as soon as security allows.

This week, the World Food Programme distributed food to 264,000 schoolchildren and more than 5,600 displaced people in the capital.

WFP also distributed food in Cité Soleil, reaching some 26,000 people this week.

Teams have reached more than 680,000 people since the beginning of March and provided more than 800,000 hot meals to more than 94,000 displaced people in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. 

WFP has also distributed school meals to more than 330,000 school children across Haiti.