The community of Ti Bastia in the commune of Arcahaie enjoys lush greenery, a mild climate, and pure air. Even the animals appreciate the organic nature of this area as they graze happily along the road leading to the community. This neighborhood is clean, peaceful and pleasant. However, that does not mean the people do not endure challenges. Every morning, 13-year-old Mama Louis, a 6th grade student, rises before the roosters crow to clean the family yard and complete other chores. She collects dead leaves from mango trees to be used as organic manure, which is stored in a corner of the barn. Then, she completes the essential chore of gathering water by filling her jerrycans to carry back to her family. Mama observes this ritual on a daily basis before heading to school with her classmates.
Fortunately, other communities in Mama’s region have engaged Haiti Outreach and DINEPA* to complete community-led sanitation training. Since December, 2020, 6 other neighboring communities have participated in the community-led total sanitation training in the commune of Arcahaie.
This community-led approach has caught on and gives real hope for the survival and development of every adult and child. Indeed, washing hands with soap at key times helps prevent diarrheal diseases which is one of the leading causes of child mortality in Haiti. This method involves encouraging the community to analyze their own hygiene and sanitation situation, defecation practices, and the consequences of not practising proper sanitation. This collective action is aimed towards achieving and maintaining an end to open defecation in Haiti. Practically speaking, this is done by encouraging the communities to build their own latrines instead of having an NGO build them.
Mama’s teacher says handwashing with soap is one of the most important and easiest ways to keep food safe, prevent disease, and help children grow taller. Handwashing with soap should be used at critical times, especially before preparing meals, before eating or feeding children, and when exiting the toilet.
In a communal section where open defecation is still practiced by the majority of the population, talking about this topic remains taboo. Adith Pierre, field coordinator of the Haiti Outreach office, advocates for community-led sanitation reform not only to the community of Ti Bastia but also to its surrounding communities. “This strategy has made communities aware of hygiene and sanitation. Their courtyards and environment are clean. It protects them against diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and other illnesses.”
Community-led total sanitation has huge impacts on community health. Adith Pierre states, “There has been a radical change in the behavior of communities. Convincing results are already observable in the town. We note, for example, the cleanliness of localities, including schools, the reduction in diarrheal diseases, but also the strengthening of social cohesion. Indeed, it is the very habit of good hygiene and sanitation practices, including hand washing with soap, which is integrated into the cultural, educational and social practices of children in these communities. We hope that by the end of 2021, all the communities of Délices will eventually eradicate open defecation. This will allow these populations to live in a healthy environment free from diseases associated with poor hygiene and sanitation.”
*DINEPA is the National Direction for Water and Sanitation in Haiti