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Haiti: Life In The Time Of Cholera

Since the outbreak of cholera in 2010, nearly everyone you speak to in Haiti knows someone who has contracted the deadly illness. At the Haiti Evangelical Christian Mission church, they listed out the names when asked. “Mrs. Elien and her son both were in hospital with cholera,” the pastor began. “Rosemarie and her two sons had cholera. Ms. Maude’s father died in the hospital with cholera…”

The list went on and on. “We still have cholera in the community and if we count only the people we know, at least 25 have died from this terrible disease,” said Pastor Saint-Clair Destine. “We live with a constant fear of what may happen to us and our children and elderly because we do not have good water to use for our needs.”

Collecting Unsafe Water
Children used to collect unsafe water from handpumps like this one near the church.

When Pastor Destine first reached out to Water Missions International asking for help for his community, this fear of cholera permeated the remote community. The local clinic was powerless to help those sick without safe water to give patients to drink, and the community didn’t fully understand the threat of cholera that hung over them.

“The population here does not know how the cholera is spread and we have very little education about the prevention of such diseases,” the pastor admitted. Despite this ignorance, he saw a way towards a better life. “I want to ask you to do your best to help me educate my people about all the waterborne diseases and to have clean water they can trust for their needs,” he told us. “The population looks to me to help them and find the answer for their fears, and I try my best to do this because the Lord teaches me what I must do as the spiritual leader for them.”

Water Missions International responded to Pastor Destine’s request for help. When our team first approached the community about the potential of a safe water project, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Water Missions International engineers quickly got to work designing a customized safe water solution for the community’s water needs.

Proper Handwashing
While the safe water solution was constructed, WMI staff lead workshops where they taught proper handwashing techniques and other health and hygiene best practices.

Thanks to Pastor Destine, our team knew that for the project to be a true success they needed to educate the community on how unsafe water can spread diseases like cholera. All throughout the construction phase of the project, our staff held workshops where they instructed community members on the best health and hygiene practices as well as explaining how diseases like cholera spread.

At the safe water solution commissioning celebration, Pastor Destine saw the hope he had for his community become a reality. His friends and neighbors finally understood what caused cholera, and the importance of good health and hygiene habits. When he looked out over the church yard, people were no longer getting unsafe water from the ground pump. Instead, his community was queued up at the new tapstand, excitedly waiting to taste safe water for the first time.

Safe Water Stand
Now children in Pastor Destine’s community can collect safe water.

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