The British Red Cross mass sanitation emergency response unit has been working in Auto-Meca camp since January 2010, providing sanitation facilities such as latrines, hand-washing stations, rubbish collection and health and hygiene promotion. Auto-Meca is a camp for people made homeless by the January earthquake in Haiti. It is densely populated with around 10,000 people sharing a small space in the Haitian capital city, Port-au-Prince. Here is the story of one family living in this camp:
Denise Peralte is a mother of two boys, aged seven and two. She came to Auto-Meca with her family of seven people after the earthquake damaged her house beyond repair. Denise’s cousin was killed in the quake but she is thankful that other members of her family were unharmed. Upon coming to the camp with very little, Denise and her family used what they had to build a small shelter, a one-room shack covered in plastic sheeting packed tightly between other similar shelters, which she shares with her sons.
“I know the Red Cross well,” says Denise. “Before the earthquake we knew the Red Cross as somewhere you could go to if you were sick, somewhere you could go to give blood and I know they also have ambulances.” Denise was therefore very happy to see the Red Cross come to Auto-Meca camp to provide sanitation facilities.
“We are happy that the Red Cross cleans up the camp by removing the garbage, this works well. It is also good to have latrines that we can use.” However, there remains concern as Denise explains: “The latrines are now starting to smell so we think they may need more disinfectant or a pipe installed to take away the odour.” Feedback from people like Denise is vital for the British Red Cross team to continue to improve the conditions in the camp. The emergency toilets are getting full and therefore the mass sanitation team is arranging for the pits to be emptied so they can be reused before the new improved latrines are installed in the next couple of weeks. These new latrines are sturdy and wooden with a raised design to resist flooding from the impending rainy season.
Denise and her family also met with the Red Cross hygiene promotion volunteers when they did house to house visits to speak to people about health issues. “The Red Cross volunteers spoke with us about the importance of washing our hands after visiting the toilet and before eating food, and of making sure the children use the toilet in the correct way,” Denise says. Despite living in the camp, Denise’s family have managed to stay fairly healthy, not suffering any illness such as diarrhoea, but she is concerned that her kids have had colds and a skin rash.
“I am worried about the future,” says Denise. “We need jobs and food and we don’t want to stay in this camp forever. We hope that the Red Cross can stay in this camp to keep helping us, to improve the toilets and to give us bathing cubicles so we have somewhere private to wash ourselves and our clothes.”