Donal Reilly is CRS senior emergency advisor in Haiti where he worked from 1996 to 2002. He returned to the country in September.
Gonaives is a mess. Haiti is a hard-pressed country on a good day. I used to work in the slums in Port-au-Prince, but I’ve never seen this amount of destruction. The water was a huge problem at first. It rose past the first floor levels of the buildings at the center of town. People who worked in Ache described it like the Tsunami effect, but the water didn’t come from the sea.
Now with the water receding, the silt is settling and the mud is becoming more of a problem. I’ve never seen a place so choked by debris. The UN has calculated 2.5 million cubic meters of mud have been deposited in the city alone. I estimate it would take removing about 400 truckloads of mud a day, every day for a year to clear Gonaives.
With all the mud on the streets there is no drainage. The drains are full. The septic tanks are full. The pit latrines are full. Gonaives is basically a city without sanitation.
People are already cleaning the mud out of their homes and business, but the problem is, there is nowhere to dump the mud. So they put it in the streets and it piles up and hinders mobility. If it rains again before the streets are cleared their houses will effectively be turned into swimming pools. This is because their buildings are at a lower level than the streets around them. Since there is no drainage, the water just stays there.
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