Earlier this summer I opened my voicemail to a message from my dear friend Anne, who had left a message for me during her evening commute. She called me from the side of the road after having been so deeply moved by an unexpected NPR segment on the sanitation crisis in Haiti and the courage of Haiti’s latrine cleaners, the bayakou, across the country. Unlike Anne, who has long known of SOIL’s work to transform waste in Haiti, most loyal NPR listeners in the US learned about Haiti’s sewage system — or lack thereof — for the first time that day as they listened to Weekend Edition.
As somebody who has taken every opportunity over the last decade to talk about waste treatment in Haiti to anybody that would listen, I was so moved to see NPR shed light on the enormity of Haiti’s sanitation crisis and heartened by the corresponding reaction to the piece across the globe. In the weeks that have followed, I’ve heard from so many people, both friends and strangers, who were moved to action in response to Rebecca Hersher’s writing — but I also heard a lot of despair.
The despair makes sense. Haiti didn’t have a waste treatment site until SOIL opened one in 2009, and both the earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Matthew have only exacerbated the problems. Between the three waste treatment sites that now exist, only 1% of human waste is effectively treated. As the country braced for the potential landfall of Hurricane Irma, we were once again reminded of the ways in which poor sanitation interacts with natural disasters, creating the potential for protracted public …read more