Today is World Water Day, a day to remember that there are billions of people around the world without access to clean water. Our international work focuses on access to safe and decent housing, including reliable access to clean water and basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines.

Access to clean water and sanitation in Haiti is severely lacking. A cholera outbreak after the 2010 earthquake has claimed almost 10,000 lives according to the United Nations and sickened hundreds of thousands.

Habitat for Humanity Canada has been working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Haiti since 2011. In addition to rebuilding homes, community development and skills training projects, Habitat Canada is supporting Habitat Haiti in addressing the critical connection between water, health and shelter through a water, sanitation and hygiene project (WASH) with a focus on latrine repairs and engaging schools within the community through the “protecting our Children for a Healthier Simon Pele” program in Port-au-Prince.

Fourteen schools are participating in the first phase of the program, where Habitat has trained 39 teachers in safe water and hygiene practices.

These teachers are currently integrating their training with the school’s curriculum to teach Simon Pele students how to practice safe personal hygiene. These children will become hygiene ambassadors for the community, taking their knowledge home and elsewhere throughout the community. The hope is to start them young and to get the support of the local community council and community based organizations to help support the transfer of good knowledge around safe WASH practices.

In phase 2 Habitat for Humanity continues to work closely with students and teacher and start addressing the major WASH infrastructure improvement activities in 10 of Simon Pele’s academic institutions, including installing 10 hand washing facilities, distributing water treatment products and installing five water fountains.

Marc-Antoine is 14 years-old and lives in Simon Pele with his extended family in a small two-bedroom home. He has lived in this community most of his life and loves to play soccer and basketball with his little brother Mitelson and their friends. Habitat Haiti visited with Marc-Antoine and asked him to talk about his experience learning with the WASH team.

“I really liked the games and songs we learned around WASH, who knew washing your hands was such a big deal? I mean we knew but the song really brought it home. At home we don’t have a latrine of our own. We use one close by in the community that many people in the neighborhood use it too. Now every time I use the restroom I wash my hands and I tell my little brother to do the same. With so many different people using the latrine, I know it’s important to help keep my hands clean so that I won’t get sick from the germs. At school they taught us about different ways to treat water, to make sure it stays clean.” —Marc-Antoine

Many homes and communities throughout the world lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Whether it's ensuring that Emamu's new Habitat home in Ethiopia has a latrine, or partnering to bring clean water to Pikangikum, a First Nation community in northern Ontario, a home needs to be a safe, healthy environment and access to clean running water and sanitation facilities are an important part of that.