Haiti One Year On: Safer Construction

Paul%20Neale Paul Neale, Program Manager for Safer Construction and Disaster Risk Reduction in Port-au-Prince, Save the Children 

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I have been in Haiti since the end of January 2010 working as the Program Manager for Safer Construction and Disaster Risk Reduction in Port-au-Prince. I came out here with another international NGO as a shelter coordinator, but after their initial distribution of emergency shelter they switched focus to WASH – NGO parlance for water and sanitation health – and job creation for people affected by the earthquake.

So, I joined Save the Children at the end of April – the children’s charity I worked for in Aceh, Indonesia following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004/5.

Our safer construction team in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince consists of six engineers, an assistant and me. Since April we have been strengthening temporary schools, building child friendly spaces and health clinics. Recently our focus has been on constructing cholera treatment units – CTUs.  

In total we have built four CTUs in partnership with Save the Children’s health and WASH teams.  It is my first experience of working in a cholera epidemic, which has so far claimed the lives of 3,600 people in Haiti.

CTU___7_80759Paul works alongside a camp resident to construct the cholera treatment unit in Gaston Magron
Photo Credit: Megan Savage

But what surprised me most is how incredibly easy it is to prevent and treat cholera – simple rehydration solutions will reverse the devastating effects of cholera on the body within one to three days. Obviously the earlier someone gets access to rehydration treatment the quicker they can make a full and speedy recovery.

I remember the first cholera case we had at our cholera treatment unit based at a place called Gaston Margron, where approximately 6,000 people are living in tent camps. It was a nine-year old boy. He was very sick when he arrived, but the next day he sat up looking for something to do – healthy again with the aid of an IV drip and rehydration!

In Haiti safer construction was originally simply called reconstruction. But we wanted to emphasise that Haiti had to build back safer and better. Already we are planning to build ten transitional schools in Port-au-Prince as well as more in Leogane and Jacmel. We hope these schools will act as a model of safer construction methodologies that will be replicated in shelters and other construction projects in the neighbouring communities.  

I’m also involved in managing the final stages of a tender process to appoint a local building contractor to construct schools in all three locations. It has taken time to get to this stage since we had to get our school design approved by the Haitian Ministry of Education. I am looking forward to getting contractors finalised and the start of school construction. It has been an arduous process, and I feel very sorry for the children studying in tent schools.

We also have to ensure the school authorities own the land where we plan to build – a crucial factor since we don’t want to end up in the awful predicament of having to tear down a school because of contested land ownership. And that’s a potential problem here in Haiti since pre-earthquake many of the schools were on rented land.

There are other problems too. There is limited capacity and skills for construction in Haiti. So, whilst we are completing construction projects we have to build the capacity of local tradesman, and monitor their progress carefully to ensure the highest possible building standards.

Port-au-Prince is not a large city, but because of poor road conditions and traffic it can take at least two hours to get to some of our sites. This limits what is possible to achieve each day. Also, most quality construction materials like timber have to be imported from places like the Dominican Republic, which takes time to arrive in country and clear customs. As a result of the cholera outbreak as well as election violence late last year it has been difficult to undertake ‘normal’ activities.

Before signing off I must mention how amazed I am by the resilience and good humour of the Haitian people. They have been through so much in the last year, and yet they always have time and a smile for you. They deserve a break and some luck in 2011. 

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

 

Haiti One Year On: Change That Makes A Difference

Shaye Gary Shaye, Haiti Country Director, Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I’ve been working in Haiti since April and I’ve seen quite a bit of progress, especially over the past few months. 

But first before I share with you what we’ve doing to help Haiti’s children, let’s take a moment to reflect on the events of January 12, 2010.

As most people know at least 230,000 people died in the earthquake in a country that was tremendously poor even before the disaster. Indeed before the quake only about a third of Haiti’s population had access to safe drinking water, and half of Haiti’s children weren’t in school. 

The quake occurred here in Port-au-Prince – Haiti’s capital – the nerve centre of the heavily centralized country. Not only did the earthquake impact people in Port-au-Prince but also in places like Leogane, and along the south coast. Much of Haiti’s essential infrastructure was damaged, but I was especially shocked to learn that 4,000 schools were destroyed. It was a catastrophic event.

IMGP0268_64470A three-story building reduced to rubble.
Photo Credit: Kate Conradt 

Save the Children immediately responded to the earthquake. Because we’ve had a presence in Haiti for over thirty years we were able to mobilize staff both here and from around the world to mount one of the largest humanitarian responses in the agency’s 91-year history.  

Following the disaster, Save the Children focused on child protection, health, education, and livelihoods. We expanded our programs, and began work in Léogâne, as well as Jacmel, which is located along the southern coast where we had not previously operated.

Until recently there were 1.3 million people, about sixteen per cent of Haitians, living in tents. When I say tents we’re really speaking of plastic sheets and poles. These are not tents that people would take camping anywhere in the world. These are tents that are more like kite plastic held up by a few wooden poles. To believe it you really have to see the situation in which people are living. It is a standard below what I would say is sub-human.

HAITI-8552_71137Residents outside their tents at the Camp de Fraternite shelter camp.
Photo Credit: Lee Celano/Getty Images for Save the Children

During a strong hurricane there is absolutely no way that these plastic sheets and poles will withstand the wind and rain.

Beyond that another 500,000 people relocated to live with family and friends in rural areas. They’re part of the hidden earthquake-affected population that are not visible. They place a huge burden on their families in the rural areas who already had a hard time feeding themselves before the earthquake. Now these families have permanent houseguests who didn’t just come for a meal or a visit, but for the unforeseeable future.

The challenges that we face are multiple. The government, which was not strong before the earthquake, was further weakened since the disaster took the lives of many government workers as well as destroyed much of the existing infrastructure. Although NGOs have some successful partnerships with the government, more often than not the NGOs themselves either provide the service like, say, a health service, or it does not exist. All of us would certainly prefer that this was not the case, but this our reality.  

An example of that would be the fact that 80 per cent of the schools are privately owned in Haiti. These are not private schools like in Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia. These are schools whose owners operate them in the community as a service or small business. Many of these schools were destroyed last January, and many of the families whose children attended these schools can no longer afford the annual school fees of a few hundred dollars. As a result too many children are missing out on the chance of an education.

But when our team and I talk to Haitians, education is always the highest priority. It’s where they want to invest in their children’s future. It’s critical to them that these private schools open as soon as possible. That’s why in 2011 Save the Children will partner with 154 schools through teacher training and resource materials, enabling 45,000 children to get an education.

DSC_6683_74579Students file into a Save the Children school in Port-au-Prince.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

On top of the quake in late October cholera came to Haiti starting in the Central Plateau, and has now expanded throughout the country. As of today, there have been 3,600 deaths as well as over 150,000 confirmed cholera cases.  

But these are just the reported cases. Many people living in rural areas don’t have access to cholera treatment centres, where literally within one to three days a person who has cholera can walk out healthy. 

The tragedy though is that we can save lives from cholera, but then people walk back into the conditions which are breeding grounds for the potentially deadly bacteria – dirty water, poor sanitation, and crowded conditions – all of which contribute to the rapid spread of cholera, and if left unchecked, can be deadly, especially to young children.

R10-HA___2021_81255Will, 3-years-old, washes his hands at a Save the Children health clinic.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Nevertheless Save the Children is saving lives through our tensoon to be sixteen cholera treatment units, and also through our water and sanitation community outreach programs where we promote safe hand washing, and basic sanitation practices. While these are simple practices we need to reinforce the messages and repeat them over and over, while also addressing basic sanitation issues. 

However, in a country where only half the people have completed fifth grade, it’s a challenge to get our message out about safe sanitation practices.

One year since the earthquake we understand why some people would be disappointed with the slow pace of recovery in Haiti, and why things are not better.  All of us working here would very much like to accomplish more. But it’s important to remember that things were bad in Haiti – the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation – long before the quake.

Nevertheless we see progress. These past weeks I have visited programs together with some of our Save the Children supporters from around the world. I was in Leogane – the epicentre of the earthquake – where one could see rubble clearance, evidence of rebuilding, people restoring family assets, and refurnishing their houses. There is definitely a commitment and steps being taken here to help rebuild lives. 

That said the process has been slow.  All of us would admit to that – all of us who work cooperatively within Haiti’s NGO community. Indeed after I finish writing this blog I will attend the weekly meeting of NGOs where we share what’s working, what’s not working, and what type of support we need. We ask ourselves what we can do collectively to improve the situation. 

I’m proud to say that since January 12, 2010, Save the Children has extended a lifeline to over 870,000 Haitians – more than half of them children. Today we continue to work with local partners, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and others to bring basic services to the Haitian population.

I believe in our work in Haiti. I believe we do make a difference. On Wednesday I visited the Eddie Pascal School – a school that was destroyed during the quake. Now children study in tents. In schools like these, where we provide assistance like teacher training, it is a delight to see Haiti’s children receive an education. And with all of the constraints that we face, I am pleased when I see one more child in school, and another child receiving quality medical care as well as lives being saved at one of our cholera treatment units. While seeing progress on a one-by-one basis may seem slow, it is precisely the kind of change that does make a difference.

R10-HA___1759_80097Rose, 10-years-old, attends a Save the Children school in Leogane.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

 

Haiti One Year On: Coordinating to Combat Cholera

Dr_Ribka_Amsalu

Dr. Ribka Amsalu Tessera, Emergency Health Advisor, Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Friday, January 7, 2011

I’ve been in Haiti since December 20 to provide cover for staff enjoying the festive season with loved ones. On Christmas Day I had time to relax – for an afternoon at least – as we enjoyed a turkey lunch. Later we visited three of our cholera treatment units and gave cakes as gifts to our staff working around the clock to prevent the spread of the virus and to save lives. We wanted to show our appreciation. It was a nice thing to do.

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Today I’ve been in a meeting of the health cluster including WHO – World Health Organization – since we have to prioritize where we are going to focus efforts on combating cholera. With so many cases of cholera now reported across Haiti it really is very important that we coordinate between all the agencies working on containing the cholera spread. It can take a lot of my time in coordination meetings but it is important to ensure we cover all the gaps.

It now looks like the cholera outbreak will last at least another three months, especially in the mountainous regions of Haiti. We’re now working on how we can reach people in these remote areas – another reason why coordination of all the agencies is important.

Educating camp residents about cholera

Hygiene promoter Arcliffe Laguerre leads a discussion on cholera prevention for residents of a Save the Children camp.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Earlier today we had some great news. Medical supplies needed to combat cholera arrived from Europe. We’d been waiting on these supplies for a while. Due to the scale of the cholera crisis in Haiti they’d been in short supply. So it is good they have arrived. But first we must work with our loggies – logisticians – whose job it is to have the supplies clear customs as quickly as possible. Then we can work together to get the supplies to clinics to help people affected by cholera. Hopefully we will get the supplies out and into the clinics very soon.

Today has been a good day.

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

 

Malawian Grandmother Takes on the Role of a Lifetime

Eburke

Eileen Burke, Save the Children, Director of Media & Communications

Westport, CT

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

 

This post originally appeared on the Healthy Newborn Network

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I read this week that the Associated Press named 88-year-old Betty White 2010 Entertainer of the Year, another honor to add to her long list of accolades as chief comedian. Approaching her ninth decade of life, the beloved Betty shows no signs of slowing down.

I was reminded of a similarly spry octogenarian whom I met in September 2009 during a visit to Save the Children’s health programs in Ekwendeni District in Malawi. Faida Simeza, age 89 (according to voter registration records in her possession), decided late in life to take on a new role as caretaker to moms and newborn babies in her village. It all began one day four years prior when a health worker came to her village to enlist grandmothers and grandfathers (known locally as agogos) in a new training program to help mothers and babies survive pregnancy and childbirth. “I had lived here long enough and had seen so many problems with mothers and newborns. I decided I had to go and find out more,” she told me.

Through the program, agogos are trained to counsel mothers through home visits on proper care during pregnancy and before and after childbirth. They also learn how to alter cultural practices that may be carried out with good intentions but are harmful. Sitting on straw mats under a canopy of trees, Faida and a group of agogos shared some of the changes they had made since the training. “Don’t feed ashes to a woman to speed up labor.” “Don’t apply rat feces to a child’s cord.” and “Don’t place a newborn baby on a banana leaf on the ground – he will get hypothermia.”

Eburke blog

In her role as an agogo, Faida (above) visits Lucy and her one-day-old baby at home.

Faida, though illiterate, works with the local public health officer to meticulously record her visits with women and babies in a book that is kept by the village chief. Since she finished her training, she has helped with the delivery and care of 10 healthy newborn babies in her village.

She will never get Hollywood awards for her role as an “agogo” in her village. But for Faida, walking around her village and seeing babies alive today because of her training is reward enough.

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Eileen Burke visited Ekwendeni last year to help film the Living Proof Agogo VideoRead the recent report on the Ekwendeni Agogo Approach, which includes the training manual and qualitative assessment report.

An Appetite for Change: 2011 Hunger Report on Ending Hunger and Malnutrition

Jessica headshot Jessica Harris

Media Relations Intern, Save the Children

Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

 

The 2011 Hunger Report is a “200 page hooray” for U.S. leadership and focus on global food security, said Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann.  Nodding in agreement were Mr. Beckmann’s fellow panelists, Dr. Rajiv Shah of USAID, Roger Thurow of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Inger Andersen of The World Bank, and Carolyn Miles of Save the Children.

Each night, 925 million people go to bed hungry.  This number, which has increased in past years due to a spike in food prices in 2007-2008, is unacceptable.  In a world of plenty, how is it that so many have to suffer through malnutrition and hunger pains on a daily basis? 

This is the question the panelists addressed today as they discussed the key focus points of the Hunger Report and the programs that will help to reduce the number of malnourished children.  According to Inger Andersen, one in five children worldwide is malnourished.  Save the Children’s Carolyn Miles emphasized that child malnutrition creates lifelong and generational impacts:  growth is stunted, immune systems are compromised, and cognitive function is negatively affected.  The first 1,000 days – from pregnancy to age two – is the critical time for child development.

 


     

In an effort to eradicate hunger, the 2011 report has outlined various programs that focus on linking agricultural practices with good nutrition.  Dr. Shah highlighted ways to introduce farmers to crops such as drought-resistant corn and more nutritional grains, increasing family income as well as improving health.  Carolyn Miles recommended that these programs happen on the ground in an integrated way to ensure that families grow foods packed with nutrition, citing the example of a family in Guatemala that she recently visited.  The family has two sons with a three year age difference, yet both children are the same height and weight because the younger son had the benefit of a Save the Children integrated agriculture, nutrition, and livestock project.

During the question and answer session, one reporter asked Dr. Shah how participating organizations will measure the success of these anti-hunger programs.  Dr. Shah responded by expressing that hunger will not be eradicated in five years.  This is just not feasible. However, the main goal right now is to target five to ten countries, decrease the number of people who go hungry every day, and use those examples to prove that this can be done on a larger scale.  

As the discussion came to a close, the panelists highlighted the most important points to take away from the well received report.  According to Carolyn Miles, it is “critical that we focus on the most vulnerable families.”  In perhaps one of the most powerful statements made Monday morning, Dr. Shah concluded the discussion by calling the fight against hunger the “challenge of our time.”


Sarita’s Story: Helping Students Stay Healthy in Nepal

Sanjana_profile_picture Sanjana Shrestha

Nepal Information Coordinator, Save the Children

Kahtmandu, Nepal 

Friday, November 19, 2010

For Sarita, 15, going to the bathroom during school used to bring fears of being bitten by a snake or embarrassment of having people see her going out in the open.

“The surrounding area of the school has poor sanitation,” explained Surya Prasad Bhatta, a teacher at Chaudyal Lower Secondary School in Kailali District of Nepal, where Sarita is a student. “The students would usually have to go on the river bank or in the jungle due to lack of toilets. It was difficult for them.”

Sartia “It used to take a long time to go to the jungle and come back to school,” added Sarita.

 But two years ago through a Save the Children-supported program the school built four new toilets for boys and four new toilets for girls. 

 “Things are different now,” said Sarita. “We use the toilet, and we don’t have to stand in long lines because we have enough of them. There is privacy, and it is less time-consuming.”

 To keep the restrooms clean, each student contributes two rupees (3 cents) to buy supplies like hand soap, detergent and buckets.  (The money also helps restock the school’s first-aid kit with medicines.)

 The school has set up a daily schedule, assigning each class and the School Health Management Committee to clean the toilets on different days. Inside toilet

Handwashing Helps Prevent Illnesses

 After going to the bathroom at school, children used to crowd around the one hand pump – the only source of water near the school – to wet their hands.  “We didn’t have soap before,” says Sarita.

 Save the Children installed two handwashing stations near the new toilets at school. These stations include pumps that you push by hand to get clean water, a large jug with a spout for pouring the water and soap. Students were taught about the importance of washing their hands to prevent bacteria and viruses, which can cause illnesses, and the proper technique for handwashing.

 “We learned that we should always wash our hands using soap and water before eating, after using the toilet and after touching human waste with your hands,” said Sarita.

 Since the handwashing stations were built, Sarita says fewer of her friends are getting sick, especially from diarrhea.

And, her teacher is seeing changes in the community as well as at school.  “Students have also developed a habit of washing their hands with soap at home,” said Bhatta.

 Outside toitletsThe new restrooms and handwashing stations are part of Save the Children’s School Health and Nutrition program that aims to help children stay healthy and stay in school.  The program includes providing children with access to safe and child-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and education.  Over the past two years, Save the Children has helped put 355 toilets in schools and preschools in Nepal. And, in 2009 alone, Save the Children installed 489 handwashing stations at Nepali schools.

 

Santosh Mahato,  Save the Children’s Nepal Health Programme Coordinator, contributed reporting. 

The Unknown Killer

SenFrist Final

Dr. Bill Frist, Save the Children's Newborn and Child Survival campaign chairman

Nashville, Tenn.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Even some physicians I know are amazed when they hear that the leading killer of children under age 5 in the developing world is pneumonia. Not malaria. Not AIDS. A highly preventable and treatable illness is claiming 1.5 million young lives every year.

 Vaccines exist which can prevent the leading causes of pneumonia and cost-effective antibiotics can treat most cases.  If developing countries had these vaccines and medicines, more than a million children could be saved each year.

 That’s why Save the Children and more than 100 health and humanitarian organizations have joined forces to promote World Pneumonia Day this November 12th. We know if Americans understand that children are dying needlessly, they will take action to help.  

 This is a problem with a proven solution. And few causes can offer a better return on investment.  A course of antibiotics can treat most cases for less than $1. Other low-cost prevention measures include exclusive breastfeeding for six months, ensuring good nutrition, reducing air pollution, washing hands and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. No other interventions currently available have the potential to save children’s lives at this scale.

 So why are we still losing this battle?  Many children who contract pneumonia simply do not get the care they need. Though it is common, it is rarely diagnosed, as few caregivers can recognize the symptoms and begin treatment in time.

 The current critical shortage of 4.3 million health care workers is another reason more children do not receive prompt diagnosis and care. Community health care workers can fill this gap, learning in just a few months of training how to use a simple timer to measure breaths and providing lifesaving care to children in the hardest-to-reach places, where most deaths occur. 

 We need more pneumonia fighters on the front lines. Join the World Pneumonia Day movement and see how breathtakingly easy it can be to save a child’s life.   

Former Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a physician, is chairman of Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival campaign.

Save the Children Loves Dirty Words

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, internet marketing and communications specialist

Westport, CT

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

 

For the past two weeks Save the Children has been promoting "dirty words" in a new YouTube series. No, not the dirty words that George Carlin talked about, that's a whole different thing. OUR dirty words are germs, toilets, worms and dirty water.

What's the point?

Our "Dirty Word" series is bringing light to the water, sanitation and hygiene conditions at schools in developing countries, and sharing the simple, inexpensive solutions that are helping children stay healthy so they can stay in school and learn.

We've installed toilets, hand-washing stations and hand pumps, and provided de-worming medicines in about 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America as are part of our School Health and Nutrition programs

Watch our "Dirty Words" YouTube series to learn how simple things, including sanitation and hygiene measures, have benefited school children in Nepal

Fast Facts

  • Each year, children miss 272 million school days because of diarrhea 
  • Two out of three schools in poor countries do not have decent toilets.
  • About 400 million school-age children in the developing world have worms- think about that next time you have a stomach ache.
  • Almost 1 billion people lack clean drinking water globally

Global Handwashing Day is October 15. Help raise awareness by taking part in Global Handwashing Day and sharing our “Dirty Words” YouTube videos.

While the name may sound trivial, our friends from GlobalHandWashingDay.org  explain the impact that the day can have:

"Handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of all child deaths."

A word from our friends

"The neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of 13 parasitic and bacterial infections [like worms] that affect over 1.4 billion people, but, as their name suggests, they have traditionally received little attention from the international community."

-The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases 

"Water and sanitation are human rights, vital to reducing poverty around the world. Together with good hygiene these essential services are the building blocks for all other development – improving health, education and livelihoods."

-Water Aid

Join Us for Global Handwashing Day on October 15

Handwashing cropped By Save the Children's Manager of School Health and Nutrition in Pakistan

Pakistan

October 8, 2010


Have you washed your hands today?

What may seem to be a common practice to you is not so common in other parts of the world. 

Next week, Pakistan will join countries around the globe to promote “Global Handwashing Day” on October 15. 

Why the need for a Global Handwashing Day? 

Each year, children worldwide miss 272 million school days because of diarrhea. One of the easiest ways to help prevent the spread of diarrhea and other diseases is by washing your hands.  But many school children, including children here in Pakistan, have no access to clean water or soap at their schools.

Last year, on the night before Global Handwashing Day, I received a text message.  It said, “Washing hands with soap can reduce 30% of diarrheal deaths in children.”  Several more text messages rapidly followed, each highlighting the benefits of handwashing.

One of Save the Children’s education officers in Khyber PakhtunKhwa Province (KPK) came up with the idea for the texting campaign as a way to spread the message to a lot of people in a short time.  And, the best part — it cost almost nothing.  He estimates that up to 3,000 teachers, community members and parent-teacher council members at the 150 schools where Save the Children works participated in the texting campaign, sending messages to their family and friends. 

This year, we have lots of fun school activities planned, from poster competitions to skits to street walks with public officials, teachers, community members and children.  

We will be posting photos of some of our activities and others from around the globe here on our blog, so we hope you’ll check back on October 15.  Let us know what you are planning for that day, too.

Looking for a way to get involved?  Why not share Save the Children’s new “dirty word” video on germs and the importance of handwashing.