The drainage systems of camps formed in fields are making life, for many, particularly difficult. However, some settlements, such as Automeca, where the camp committee has worked closely with the British Red Cross on developing drainage systems, are better able to withstand the rains.
Last month, I was in Haiti making a short video about the emergency operation. It’s vital that good water and sanitation conditions can be maintained to avoid a massive public health disaster and I got to see how the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was getting prepared.
I spoke to Maxime Jean, 43, who lives in a camp in Leogane – which was at the epicentre of the quake – where the Red Cross is now working. He said: “I was outside my house with my daughter when the quake happened.
“My wife and son were inside the house and it came crashing down. I can’t say how they survived but only God knows the answer to that.
“After the quake, I went to different communities, meeting people and getting them together in camps and trying to get the help they needed, such as water. I did this because I believe that if someone needs help then I should help them.
“The Red Cross is helping us build these latrines. I went to the office to speak to them about the fact that we needed help and now it’s being done.
“They are also doing hygiene promotion with us, to teach people to wash their hands after using the toilet – I mean they know this but we are reminding them because people are forgetting.”
At the moment, the heavy rains are causing damage to latrines in some temporary settlements. A major concern is the potential for widespread diarrhoea, which can be fatal for children, as well as the increased levels of mosquito-borne malaria.
The Red Cross is continuing to improve and maintain sanitation facilities in vulnerable settlements by building tank latrines – as opposed to pit latrines – which are better able to withstand the rains.
Conditions for people in the camps remain extremely challenging. However, all the work that has gone into preparing for the rainy season means the public health disaster that was feared has so far been avoided.
The next big test for Haitian communities struggling to get back on their feet will be the hurricane season, which typically starts in May.
The Red Cross is helping 120 camps get prepared with early warning systems for dangers ranging from epidemics to flooding. It is identifying large communal shelters and evacuation routes, as well as training community members in first aid and basic search and rescue.
Health and hygiene promotion also remain a priority and volunteers are handing out mosquito netting, cleaning drains, collecting rubbish and improving sanitary conditions.
Finally, medicines and relief items are being prepositioned in Port-au-Prince and other areas in case the roads become inaccessible.