Hurricane season brings heavy rains and suffering to Haiti
Written by Kristin Myers
Heavy rains have caused widespread flooding in one of Port-au-Prince’s poorest slums, Cité Soleil, leaving its residents wading through floodwaters contaminated with garbage and human waste.
As Tropical Storm Earl bears down on the Caribbean, communities in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince are already suffering from floods that filled their streets with sewage and refuse. When rain poured into the Cité Soleil slum on July 13th, it overwhelmed the neighboring canals, already filled with mud and trash. Soon, floodwaters carrying garbage and human waste had flowed into the homes of some Haiti’s poorest people.
Cité Soleil is made up of several neighborhoods, all overcrowded. The land below it is swampy and was once the site of a garbage dump. Many residents live in shacks improvised from wood and corrugated aluminum without access to safe drinking water, toilets, or electricity. The area is also close to the sea, which, when combined with an absence of infrastructure and resources, leaves Cité Soleil extremely vulnerable to storms. Its residents are some of the country’s most vulnerable, scratching out a living under extremely trying physical and environmental conditions.
For the past two weeks, nearly 6,000 families have been wading through contaminated floodwater, with nowhere else to go. Families sleep on cinder block beds while dirty, contaminated water flows beneath them. The storm destroyed toilets, which has compounded the risk of infectious disease as people turn to impromptu facilities with inadequate drainage.
The floodwaters are exposing Cité Soleil’s residents — and especially its children — to infectious diseases such as cholera, an epidemic which has caused thousands of deaths after the country’s 2010 earthquake.
The people of Cité Soleil are trying to recover. Those who are able to are cleaning their homes, drying what’s left of their belongings outside in the sun — though they’ll never get back their irreplaceable personal documents or essential assets like livestock that were swept out to sea.
With no other options, families — usually women and children— are using wheelbarrows to carry waste and dirty water out of their homes, dumping it back into the street or the canal. The pools of stagnant water are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of diseases like malaria and yellow fever.
The hurricane season is set to last into the fall months, and with many of the drains clogged, the canals and streets will flood again as soon as heavy rains hit. Without help and proper removal of dirt and waste, the people of Cité Soleil will only be able to watch as the rainwaters destroy all of their cleanup efforts. That would be a setback this community cannot afford. How Concern will help
We anticipate heavy rains in the coming days and weeks, so our priority is cleaning up sewage, as well as clearing drains and canals. We are also working to support the 6,000 families that are currently affected by these floods, distributing tarps and mosquito nets, as well as lamps to families with no electricity.
With your support, we can help families rebuild, and protect children from water borne illnesses like cholera. Your support will also improve Cite Soleil’s ability to withstand the rest of hurricane season, which will bring more heavy rains in the coming days, weeks, and months.