Haiti A good friend called soap

 Water Sanitation & Hygiene
 8th Dec 2010

by Sabine Wilke, CARE Haiti

This is not your average hand-washing routine. It’s not like what we are used to doing in the bathroom or in the kitchen sink before we eat. This is a very sophisticated affair, which requires concentration and diligence. The kids in Aujecad, a camp for displaced persons in Carrefour, are no-nonsense about their hand-washing. The camp is home to nearly 2,300 people who lost their houses in the January 12, 2010 earthquake. Aujecad borders the ocean, and is prone to flooding, but there’s no other place for its inhabitants to go. The surrounding neighborhood lies in ruins.

Living conditions in Aujecad are dire, and basic hygiene is difficult to maintain. CARE helps the people here by constructing sanitary facilities and – equally importantly – promoting proper hygiene. Hygiene is key to fighting the spread of diseases and helping the families to stay healthy. Fortunately, the children assembled at the hand-washing station know what it takes.

They start off by rinsing their hands and wrists thoroughly with water. Then they carefully take the soap and lather their hands. Trying hard not to waste too much soap, they take another drop of water to produce more foam. Then comes one-minute of scrubbing and lathering each finger, the wrists and the fingernails. Finally, they carefully close the tap with their elbow and shake their hands in the air. “If you have no towel, you can just let them dry like this“, a little girl explains.  Towels are not readily available in Aujecad, so it’s nice to see the kids following the protocol.

These kids have participated in CARE hygiene promotion activities, which providing Haitian communities with knowledge to protect themselves from sickness and disease. This is done with house visits, radio messages and hygiene workshops. CARE trains educators to explain proper body hygiene, how to avoid diseases such as malaria and diarrhea, and how to safely collect, transport and store water. To make sure these messages reach everyone, CARE supports the formation of children and mothers clubs. The clubs discuss hygiene and safety issues and teach each other what they have learned. CARE teams also organize public screenings of videos illustrating proper hygiene behavior. On October 15th, CARE helped celebrate Hand Washing Day with organized public events in both Léogâne and Carrefour. More than 2,800 people attended and went home with a bar of soap and the necessary knowledge to protect their families’ health.

Another part of CARE’s earthquake recovery effort in the camps is the provision of facilities and items to maintain basic hygiene. In Aujecad, adjacent to where the kids are still busy washing their hands, CARE built 14 latrines, eight for women and six for men. They are separated from each other to allow for some privacy. CARE has also built two showers. They’re basically just wooden frames covered with plastic tarps so people can step into with a bucket of water and clean themselves, but in these crowded and untidy conditions, the construction of private places to shower is an enormous improvement in living conditions. CARE and the camp health committee designate an attendant for the latrines who keeps them tidy and makes sure there is soap at the hand washing stations. These attendants earn 200 gourdes ($5) per day. CARE also provides brooms, masks, gloves and detergent to keep the latrines clean.

And the kids of Aujecad make sure the bar of soap is put to good use.

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