With a loudspeaker in hand, Antoine Cassagnol stands facing a section of the Lindor camp in Delmas 89, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. He is reading cholera prevention advice published by the Haitian Red Cross Society.
“Wash your hands with soap after using the toilet,” he bellows. “Drink clean water only. Go quickly to the clinic if you have diarrhea or vomiting.”
Antoine is the president of the Lindor community committee and is responsible for safeguarding the camp’s water supply. And it is a duty he clearly takes seriously. “When the driver comes to deliver water, I use the tester to check the quality, which should be at 0.5 or 0.6” Antoine says. “Anything under 0.4 is not acceptable.”
If the figure is too low, there is a chance that it could be contaminated and become unfit to drink.
While he is a painter by profession, Antoine sounds more like a biochemist as he rattles off the formula for preparing a chlorine treatment. “The Red Cross taught me to treat water,” he explains.
“I took part in several trainings where I learned about water quality. It has helped me to help my community.”
The Earthquake: Then and Now
Antoine explains where he was when the earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010: “I was painting a house in Canapé Vert. All the dogs in the area started barking, and I thought it was a sign that something was going to happen. Five minutes later, as I was walking home, the ground started shaking.”
“I heard people screaming,” he continues. “I saw houses falling before my eyes and lamp posts jumping up and down.”
When Antoine finally got home, he discovered that his house was badly damaged. Thankfully, his family and neighbors were still alive.
A year later, Antoine’s two-bedroom house bears a red “MTPTC” on the wall indicating that it has been earmarked for demolition by the Ministère des Travaux Publics, Transports et Communications (Ministry for Public Works, Transportation and Communication). But he and his wife and six children still call it home.
Like many of his neighbors, his family stayed with friends for some time after the quake and then lived in a tent in the Lindor camp, a stone’s throw away from their condemned house. What was once the neighborhood football field is today a sea of tarpaulins and makeshift structures – home to 820 families.
With the cholera epidemic quickly spreading across the country, Antoine is acutely aware of how important it is to protect the water supply and ensure that people drink clean, safe water.
“We get clean water every day from the Red Cross so I have no problem,” he says. “But there is a vendor nearby who is selling water that is not treated and that is very worrying.”
“I’m going to have to speak to them very seriously about that. People buy that water to drink and think it’s good, but it’s not.”
Some young bystanders nod in approval and, almost in unison, respond: “Yes man, talk to them. You are the water guardian. They have to respect you.”
Every day, dozens of Red Cross water trucks deliver more than 660,000 gallons of clean water to camps across Port-au-Prince. The Red Cross has trained 75 water point caretakers like Cassagnol to make sure that the water remains safe for the estimated 317,000 people who rely on it.
Learn how else the Red Cross has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Haitians by visiting www.redcross.org/haiti.