Sanitation Mission: Latrine Projects
Our second major sanitation project was the installation 825 latrines in the community of Lamielle, Haiti. In March of 2018, we accomplished our goal by installing a latrine at every home, every school, and every church in this impoverished community.
Lamielle is an exceptionally poor community in the Central Plateau of Haiti on the border with the Dominican Republic. It has a population of 4,336 people living in 812 homes. Only 26 of the home had a functioning latrine. Most people were forced to defecate in shallow pits or in open fields. Because drinking water is sourced from the local river, the resulting public health issues due to improper disposal of human waste were devastating. The lack of proper sanitation resulted in the spread of bacterial, viral, and protozoal gastrointestinal infections, including cholera.
Since the 2010 introduction of cholera into Haiti, over 750,000 people, or seven percent of the Haitian population, has been infected with cholera and an estimated 10,000 people have died as a result. Cholera is an infectious disease spread primarily through water contaminated with human waste. Because Lamielle lacked proper sanitation, cholera outbreaks were a common occurrence.
The simple fact is, latrines save lives. In 2015 the Cheerful Heart Mission, in partnership with the Black Rock Church in Fairfield, Connecticut, completed the installation of 1,250 latrines (CHM 725, Black Rock 525) in the neighboring community of Tilori. Lamielle is located only three miles from Tilori, in the same watershed.
Local healthcare professionals have indicated that since the completion of the Tilori and Lamielle Latrine Projects the incidence of cholera originating in these communities has decreased dramatically, to zero. The doctors and nurses there could not be more pleased.
Our next public health project is the Lagua Latrine Project beginning in 2019.
A public health crisis exits in Lagua, Haiti. Lagua is an impoverished community located in the Haitian Central Plateau on the border of the Dominican Republic. Life threating gastrointestinal disease is endemic and commonplace due to the lack of proper sanitation. Infectious diseases, such as cholera, are spread through surface water contaminated with human fecal material. People are needlessly suffering and dying from easily preventable disease. The most vulnerable in society, the young and the elderly, are at greatest risk.
This public health crisis can be eliminated with the community-wide installation of latrines.
The Cheerful Heart Mission is undertaking a project to install a latrine at every home, school, and church in the community of Lagua. The latrines are provided free of charge to the recipients. The recipients volunteer their labor to help construct their latrine.
It’s simple. Latrines save lives.
In the second quarter of 2019, the Cheerful Heart Mission began a project to construct 850 ventilated improved pit latrines in the community of Lagua, Haiti with the goal of completing the project by first quarter of 2021. Project duration is expected to be twenty-two months. Latrine installations will include 765 at existing dwellings, twenty-eight at new dwellings, forty at schools, twelve at churches, and five in public areas.
In preparation for the Lagua Latrine Project, the Cheerful Heart Mission conducted a census in July and August of 2018 of Lagua to determine the parameters and scope of this project. Prior to the census, the population and number of dwellings were unknown to the Haitian government and no reliable community data were available from any source. The Lagua Latrine Project is based on the information derived from that census.
The latrine project cost is budgeted for $376,329. This is a total cost including material, transportation, labor, construction supervision, and project management. Our years of working in this border region and our prior experience with latrine projects in the bordering communities of Tilori and Lamielle give us a high level of confidence in this cost estimate.
The expected effect on the public health of Lagua is a dramatic reduction in the incidence of infectious gastrointestinal disease. Regional healthcare officials studying the outcome of a prior Cheerful Heart Mission latrine projects have stated that they believe the cases of cholera originating in Lagua will drop to near zero after the project is completed.
Lagua has a population of 4,176 people. It is a rural farming community with much open space. There are 765 modest dwellings in nine neighborhoods. The population is very young. People nineteen years-of-age and younger represent fifty-six percent of the population. People fifty-five years-of-age and older represent only six percent of the population.
Educational opportunities are limited. Twenty-nine percent of the children between ages five and nineteen do not attend school. Of twenty-one schools in Lagua, nineteen are private and two are government operated. Schools are in poor condition and overcrowded. Sixty to seventy students are taught in classrooms with a maximum capacity of twenty students. Many students must sit on the floor due to the lack of furniture. Books and supplies are severely lacking.
The main economic activity in the area is farming. In addition to growing fruits, vegetables, and nuts, free-range grazing of cattle, goats, sheep, and poultry is common. Local employment opportunities are limited forcing workers to travel great distances to find work in Port-au-Prince or Hinche, or to cross the border for work in DR.
Only forty-five percent of the dwellings can be accessed by road. The road surfaces consist of dirt or gravel. Many dwellings can only be accessed by animal paths. Horses and mules serve as the main mode of transportation. Lagua has no social services support. Single parent families, children, the elderly, and the disabled must rely on individual members of the community for assistance. There is a significant number of orphans. Teenage pregnancy is common. There are no security or emergency services, and no public utilities to provide electricity, water, or communications. Wood is the primary fuel source used for cooking.
Of the 765 dwellings in Lagua, only 29 dwellings have any type of sanitation facility and only 2 have functioning latrines. Lagua is mostly an open-defecation community. The lack of proper human waste management has a dramatically negative impact on public health, promulgating the spread of viral, bacterial, protozoal, and parasitic infectious disease not only to the people of the Lagua community but to people living in communities down-river as well. Poor sanitation is linked to the transmission of diseases including typhoid fever, giardiasis, hepatitis, and cholera.