Thursday, November 18, 2010

An on-the-ground perspective on Haiti from a clean water specialist

A Calgary, Alberta man who specializes in clean water solutions has just returned from Haiti. Olivier Mills works for the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, a non-profit that does water and sanitation work for development organizations. Mills provided a unique on-the-ground perspective to Calgary Herald writer Valerie Fortney on the cholera outbreak. In the interview, Mills says that the Haitian people have seen too much, but are still resilient.

On this latest of three trips to Haiti this year, Mills was planning to spend time working with a local women's organization to utilize such simple, effective household technologies as biosand filters. But his itinerary took a major detour when, right about the time he landed, the cholera outbreak hit.

Suddenly, he found himself being called on for emergency advice and help.

"In some ways it was chaotic because there were international non-governmental organizations that didn't know the technical aspects of handling cholera," he says, shaking his head.

"In other ways, it was calm, because so many people living there didn't know anything about cholera or, if they did, had a 'whatever' attitude to this latest crisis. They're not complacent, they've just seen too much."

In addition to helping other NGO's respond to the crisis with his expert advice, Mills provided the Haitian government with a copy of CAWST's guidelines for preventing cholera, which was widely distributed throughout Haiti.

Mills, whose job as part of CAWST is to help prevent such outbreaks from gaining traction in the first place, found much of the experience frustrating.

"The government of Haiti is more interested in the upcoming election than the safety of its people," he says. "They are stating that the outbreak will be over on Dec. 12, which is completely nuts."

Read more:

No comments: