Sometimes, when Cité Soleil resident Kamene Matthieu boils plantains in the water she fetched from the hand pump in her neighborhood, they turn black. She says they look more like mushrooms than plantains when they’re cooked.
This experience is not uncommon for Cité Soleil residents – the water is contaminated. When bathing, it leaves skin with a white, itchy film. Women experience vaginal infections. Children suffer from diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. Many die from cholera and other intestinal diseases.
“People drink that water without treating it because they don’t have the opportunity to afford another water source, and that makes them suffer a lot,” said Pastor Colo Jean Jacques, a community leader and clean water advocate in Cité Soleil. Recently, Pastor Colo approached Pure Water’s Haiti staff to propose a partnership.
This partnership is the focus of Pure Water’s 2014 end-of-the-year campaign, for which we hope to provide clean water and hygiene education by raising enough funds to partner with 1,000 Cité Soleil families.
With a population of approximately 400,000, Cité Soleil has been called “the worst slum in the Western Hemisphere.” Situated on the outskirts of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, the shantytown was originally built to house manual laborers coming to the city. The Red Cross calls it “a microcosm of all the ills in Haitian society: endemic unemployment, illiteracy, non-existent public services, insanitary conditions, rampant crime and armed violence.”
To make things worse, Haiti has experienced a prolonged cholera epidemic since 2010, and as many as 712,330 suspected cases have lead to more than 8,600 deaths in total. “A majority of the Haitian population remains exposed to cholera due to lack of access to clean water and latrines; the treatment capacity of the sick is still inadequate,” said a representative of Doctors Without Borders.
Pure Water has had a presence in Cité Soleil since 2008, and the area was a significant focus of our post-earthquake emergency response efforts. However, long-term development interventions are still needed. We’ve been working hard to bring clean water and hygiene promotion to public facilities such as schools, health clinics and orphanages. But to effect sustainable change, households need these resources as well.
Despite these dire conditions, Haiti, and more specifically, Cité Soleil, is much more than its public health statistics or development indexes. There is a resilience, strength and joy to be found in this struggling community. And it is this sense of fortitude that will help make Pure Water’s work a success here. While clean water and hygiene education cannot solve all of Cité Soleil’s challenges, it can provide a foundation of hope for residents, like Kamene, to live healthier, better lives.
Be a part of this change: Click here to contribute to our Cité Soleil campaign. Or travel with us to see firsthand the impact of our work in Haiti. For more information on upcoming trips, email us at: [email protected]