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Mercy Corps works to educate Haitians about making water safe

Haiti, December 25, 2010

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Kimberly A.C. Wilson

The Oregonian
December, 2010

CITÉ BOB, Pétionville, Haiti -- It helps to be nimble to visit this hanging tent city where Lucienne Henrius shares a tarpaulin hut with her three young sons, John Charles, Jean-Paul and Jerry.

Even the goat kids watch their steps as they climb from one tiny stomped dirt foundation to another.

Perched on a slope above Port-au-Prince, this small camp overlooks a flood wash, dry in the aftermath of hurricane season, that is speckled with goats, naked boys and an infinite array of plastic debris.

Before the cholera outbreak this fall, when Henrius, 33, ran out of water, the rivulet offered a tempting solution to thirst. But these days she is a convert to chlorinated water and the sanitation and hygiene efforts of humanitarian aid groups like Mercy Corps....

...Trish Morrow is Mercy Corps' water, sanitation and hygiene engineer for the region that includes Port-au-Prince, where the aid agency oversees hygiene in 25 camps, including Cité Bob.

Fully half of Mercy Corps's efforts in Haiti are focused on hygiene promotion to prevent the spread of waterborne disease. Aid workers set off on motorbikes shouldering backpacks filled with bleach solution to spray down homes of the sickened in mountainous settlements -- the primary tool for preventing spread of cholera in areas beyond radio waves, cellular coverage and roads.

Down in the agency's tent cities, full wash services are in place, including lined latrines, water vouchers, aquatabs, hygiene education and oral rehydration salts to be used immediately if symptoms of waterborne infection begin. Chlorination stations at the camp also purify the 20 to 30 liters of water each resident uses daily for washing up and showering....