Environmental health in Haiti: Olivia, WHO
Three days after the earthquake, WHO public health engineers Yves Chartier and Dominique Maison were deployed to rapidly assess the environmental health situation, with emergency health care facilities a priority.
Environmental health activities are a crucial element of the response as they are about improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene to prevent infections and the spread of disease. They also help prevent environmental contamination from hazardous waste.
WHO is coordinating the Health Cluster, which brings more than 50 partner organizations together to plan the health response. WHO is also responsible for improving environmental health in health care settings. So within the cluster for Water and Sanitation, or "WASH", WHO advises on quality standards and control.
A rapid assessment showed that water was not completely disrupted by the quake. Nevertheless, more water was quickly brought in by tankers and put in emergency storage facilities.
Sanitation, such has managing hospital waste, is a priority due to the heavy load of medical activities, in particular surgeries. WHO quickly set up a system to collect and safely dispose of medical waste.
Many people lost homes and now live in the streets. WHO is working with partners on treating water that is being delivered to informal settlements by tankers to make sure that safe water reaches people most at risk of water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea.
The work that Yves, Dominique and other environmental health experts are doing is key to protecting the health of thousands.