Answers to your questions
Thanks to the determination of the Haitian people, their government, and the support of the international community, a lot of progress has been made in Haiti since a devastating earthquake hit near the capital on January 10, 2010. But enormous challenges remain as the Caribbean nation struggles to rebuild and overturn decades of neglect. Here are answers to some of the questions you have been asking about Oxfam's work.
Last updated on Jan. 11,2013
Q: What is Oxfam’s role in Haiti right now?
A: During the first year of our response to the earthquake,Oxfam helped 500,000 by providing access to sanitation and water in camps for displaced people, by supporting protection programs for victims of gender-based violence, and by promoting livelihoods through cash for work programs and support to small-scale enterprises.
In 2011, Oxfam made a transition from emergency response to longer-term rehabilitation, gradually leaving the more than 120 camps where we had been working. We handed over most of our water and sanitation (WASH) programs to trained water committees and established alternative WASH provision mechanisms in all the camps we left. We continue to monitor the camps in order to respond if the need arises and we do regular training with water committees.
Oxfam’s focus now is on longer-term development, promoting sustainable change. We are working in communities rather than camps and engaging with Haitian organizations as partners in initiatives to strengthen citizen participation.
In 2012 Oxfam has reached 325,000 people through:
- supporting employment creation through development of small enterprises;
- building stronger and safer neighbourhoods by supporting the construction of long-term sanitation services, this includes building latrines and sanitation infrastructure in public spaces such as schools, market places and health centres (this forms part of Haiti´s national sanitation strategy to eradicate cholera); building eco-latrines and water filters in neighborhoods and in transitional shelters; working with partners and local authorities to conduct ongoing hygiene promotion in schools and neighborhoods;
- working with small-scale farmers to support their livelihoods.
Oxfam continues to respond to the cholera outbreak in Haiti by providing clean water and sanitation services, public health education campaigns, distribution of hygiene kits and oral rehydration salts.
We have also responded to tropical storms Isaac and Sandy. Most recently, after Sandy, Oxfam distributed seeds and other materials to farmers whose gardens were destroyed, as well as carried out public health promotion work to prevent the spread of cholera.
In order to try and reduce Haiti´s vulnerability to future natural hazards, Oxfam has continued its work in disaster risk reduction by creating 24 local and communal protection committees and facilitating 32 committees for training on disaster risk reduction. Special measures were also put into place to protect the Artibonite riverbanks, while rehabilitating irrigation canals and dredging 40,000 meters of secondary and tertiary irrigation canals.
Q: If more than 350,000 people still live in camps, why aren’t you helping them?
A: In 2012, Oxfam began transitioning out of the camps and focusing on longer-term rehabilitation and development. This meant focusing on communities in order to strengthen neighborhoods and support job creation in order to enable people to leave the camps. Our aim has been to empower people to be responsible for – and take control of - their own resources in their own communities.
Before leaving the camps we ensured that people were trained and mechanisms were put in place so that service provision would not come to a halt.
We handed over the responsibility of daily operation and management of WASH facilities in camps to the camp communities, while supporting them. We held discussions with the camp communities where we work and established committees responsible for WASH – making sure female members of the camps formed part of these committees. The committees received training on how to manage water sales, chlorination and solid waste management in the camps so that they can now organize the provision of water and the collection of solid waste. We will accompany them in this process as they move forward to sustainable state-provided services.
We have ensured that alternative sources for water and sanitation services are in place in all the camps where we worked. We have extended existing water networks, drilled boreholes, improved existing shallow wells, and linked up water committees with water providers.
People living in camps today do not have the same immediate needs that they had three years ago. Now what people urgently need are jobs, secure housing and access to sustainable basic services.
Q: Do people in camps have to pay for water now?
A: Yes. People in Port-au-Prince paid for clean water before the earthquake, and they have now returned to that system. It is no longer economically viable for Oxfam to continue to truck free water into the camps (for the first 18 months after the earthquake Oxfam spent $167,000 per month trucking water into camps), and crucially, the provision of free water trucking hinders the development of a long-term solution to Haiti´s water needs. On several occasions DINEPA (the state water and sanitation department) has said that if humanitarian organizations continue to provide free water they will not be able to build a permanent sustainable water system, which Haiti urgently needs and it asked international humanitarian organizations to stop providing free water in camps.
Q: Can cholera outbreaks be prevented?
A: Preventing the spread of cholera is straightforward: It requires good basic hygiene, like hand-washing and drinking clean water. However, this becomes more difficult if access to basic sanitation is not available. If Haiti is to avoid future public health crises such as the ongoing cholera epidemic, the government of Haiti, with the support of the international community, must significantly step up investment in basic, affordable and safe water and sanitation infrastructure across the country.
Q: What is the current cholera situation?
A: Following seasonal heavy rains between June-November, there had been an increase in the number of cholera cases. According to the UN, case infection rates are 2,500 weekly. As a result Oxfam scaled-up the cholera prevention work it was already doing in the north, west and southwest of the country (including the metropolitan area). This response included: distribution of hygiene kits (which contain soap and water purification tabs), latrine construction, drainage improvement, and mobilizing local brigadiers who go from house to house spreading messages to the community on cholera prevention. Oxfam also supported local cholera treatment centers through construction work.
Q: Can Oxfam cope with a new outbreak of cholera?
A: Oxfam has a contingency stock ready to be deployed in case of cholera outbreaks, floods, hurricanes or other natural hazards. At the same time, we are coordinating our response with other agencies and sharing information which is essential to limit the spread of the cholera. Oxfam’s mobile water and sanitation response and monitoring team also has capacity to intervene in case of any new cholera outbreaks in areas where we work.
Q: What is Oxfam doing to ensure the sustainability of its programs and fight against cholera?
A: Oxfam is working with community-based organizations to train them to become responsible for sharing good hygiene practices within the community, in schools, and in markets, and to be able to react when cases of cholera do arise. In Petit-Goave, Gressier and Port-au-Prince we have established partnerships with local organizations and are working with them to lead the prevention and management of cholera. We are also working with the Ministry of Public Health, providing it with material support and training camp work crews to work with the ministry, in order to ensure that in the long-term the government has the capacity to deal with cholera outbreaks and can carry out an effective response.