Haiti – a country already facing widespread poverty, political instability, weak infrastructure, and extreme vulnerability to natural disasters – was ill-equipped to deal with the outbreak of yet another deadly disease. A deadly cholera epidemic following the 2010 earthquake led to the death of nearly 10,000 people. Haiti started 2020 by finally having reached a milestone of one full year free from any new cases of the deadly waterborne disease, just as COVID-19 was starting to spread globally.
35% of Haitians lacking basic drinking water services and two-thirds with limited or no sanitation services. Even in healthcare settings, more than 95% of public health facilities are in need of urgent repair due to normal deterioration and decades of neglect. The country’s extreme poverty means that many facilities lack plumbing, improved sanitation, adequate infectious waste disposal, sterilization equipment, electricity, and/or access to a basic running water supply.
As part of CMF’s Stop the Gaps campaign, we partnered with Partners in Health Canada who, through their sister organization in Haiti, Zanmi Lasante (ZL), addressed infrastructure concerns at the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais (HUM), which is one of the main COVID-19 treatment centers and referral hospitals in the country, and also currently the largest teaching hospital in Haiti.
At the start of the pandemic, ZL and the hospital identified gaps in its WASH infrastructure. The institution lacked sufficient numbers of working toilets and handwashing stations to meet the needs of the patients, staff, and visitors who came to the facility on a daily basis. This was particularly concerning as cases of COVID-19 were on the rise and given the important role handwashing plays in disrupting the transmission of the virus, strengthening WASH was seen as an urgent priority.
Research shows that well-positioned, easily accessible hand washing stations increase good hand hygiene practices and reduce healthcare-acquired infections. In addition, by increasing the number of toilets for patients and staff in COVID-19 areas of the hospital, there will be less wait time for individuals in the COVID-19 units. The improvements will also ensure that handwashing stations and toilets are still available when facilities are being cleaned and disinfected.
That’s where we stepped in with a grant for the construction of up to 15 permanent handwashing stations and 15 toilets in order to reduce the transmission of the virus.
Through the grant, in spite of a near unprecedented escalation in violence and security this past year that disrupted the procurement of supplies, HUM was able to install handwashing stations at the main entrance, primarily for the benefit of patients and visitors who are now able to disinfect prior to entering the hospital. The team also installed new handwashing stations in the neonatal intensive care unit, the pediatrics department, maternity ward, emergency department and the orthopedics department – which is currently acting as the COVID-19 treatment unit. Broken toilets across the hospital were replaced, and new toilets were installed in the COVID-19 treatment unit, upholding standards of infection prevention and control and providing dignified care to those infected with the coronavirus.
The project has enhanced infection prevention and control efforts for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and given patients, visitors and staff access to dignified sanitation and hygiene options. We thank our generous donors for their support which made this project possible.
During this pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Working together as a global community, we can stop the spread of COVID-19.
To help support projects like this, please consider donating to our Stop the Gaps campaign.