2 Haiti Stories: Eating Dirt to Stay Alive & Improving Sanitation in Shada

I just got to Cap Haitien yesterday morning so the blogging schedule will be irregular for the next 2 weeks. I don’t have much time to write at the moment, but I wanted to post 2 stories in the news right now about Haiti.

Eating Dirt to Stay Alive


Duration: 40sec

With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice. Now some people are taking desperate measures to fill their bellies. (Jan. 29)

See also this slideshow from La Repubblica: Haiti, biscotti “di fango” per non morire di fame

Improving Sanitation in Shada

« Shada » réclame des latrines publiques from Le Matin Haiti

Translated from the French. My translation skills aren’t great so not everything will be right and some of the lyricism of the writing will be lost. I put elipses (…) where I hadn’t a clue what they the author was going on about.

Latrine in Shada
Pete got this picture during his last visit to Haiti.

For the 12,000 inhabitants of “Shada”, a shantytown in Cap-Haitien, there are only about five latrines available. Soon, more ecological latrines will be built through the EAuCap project and carried out by a consortium including Oxfam GB, Protos, the Intermediary Technology Group of Haiti (GTIH), and the state officials.

In some passageways of Shada, teenagers play hopscotch. In others, cobblers repair third-hand shoes to sell them cheaply in the Northern capital’s public market. Surveying the grim alleyways of Shada, an active community life is revealed. Women, squatting in an intersection, comment on the neighboring couple’s argument from the previous night. As soon as a stranger approaches, they change the subject.

A few meters away in another passageway, children, naked like Adam and Eve in their innocence, force themselves to smile. Teenagers follow, scowling,… singing and tossing around funny catch phrases like at carnival. But after a few minutes more of walking, another sordid spectacle is offered to this Matin reporter. Young people squat single file and without any embarrassment evacuate their intestines under the open sky into latrines (the sea).

In desperate need of public health intervention
Promiscuity, insalubrity and with its open-air public latrines, “Shada” is in desperate need of public health interventions. This mazelike shantytown situated on the seashore at the western end of Cap-Haitien is a tough case for the local authorities. Like Fort Saint-Michel, the Cité Soleil of Cap, “Shada” is regarded as another garbage dump. The inhabitants live folded up on themselves, every man for himself.

To build public latrines in this space of degrading misery is, says one official, is an impossibility, not achievable. However, the parties involved in the EAuCap project, namely state officians and the three participating nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), Oxfam GB, Protos and the Intermediary Technology Group of Haiti (GTIH), believe different. Initially, the consortium gathered all community groups of “Shada” and introduced a hygiene promotion campaign. After several group education sessions, the construction of pilot latrines was chosen as the top priority for the inhabitants.

“Social Marketing”
Financed by the European Union (EU) to the tune of 3 million USD, EAuCap sees “Shada” as a challenge. According to the project coordinator, “After three months, the team is still in the discussion phase”. Kone Amara, of Cote D’Ivoire, explains, saying that the engineers have carried out the technical analysis of the latrine design … and have discussed of the costs. What remains is the approval of the residents of “Shada” because, he insists, they do not want to build for the sake of building. The idea is to carry out long-lasting projects that can serve as examples to other financial backers in other zones. “Moreover”, adds the assistant coordinator of the project EAuCap, “The initiative to build these latrines < > social marketing. This requires a low cost and an easy management”. With regards to the models presented to the community, the faeces will be either dried and used to make compost, or mucked out after at least a year.

“Shada”, according to Samuel Mondestin, is the first district which the authorities plan to move [not sure if that is translated correctly]. The needs are urgent. The national police officers do not venture into this shantytown regardless of the announced incident or the offence: crime, riot, brawl, rapes or burglaries. However, facing all the dangers, the EAuCap’s engineering team is there almost each day. For it is time that another framework of life is offered to the people of “Shada”.