Haiti recycles human waste in fight against cholera epidemic

Faeces processed to produce valuable fertiliser for crops and new forests – and eliminate source of disease

in Port-au-Prince

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 10 March 2013

Haiti cholera

A woman offers water to her son in a clinic set up to treat victims of cholera. More than half of global cholera cases occur in Haiti. Photograph: Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty

It’s a modern-day alchemy that is, on a small scale at least, helping Haitians turn something deadly into something valuable.

“If we can take all the poop that’s making people sick right now,” said Dr Sasha Kramer as she stuck a thermometer into a large mound of faecal waste in the middle of Troutier, Port-au-Prince’s city dump, “and turn it into this really valuable resource that could be used for reforestation or for increased agricultural production, then you really take a problem and turn it into a solution.”

Every week, Soil (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) collects the human waste from 56 dry toilets built in camps for displaced earthquake victims, and mixes it with chips of sugar cane bagasse, a byproduct of local rum production.

“It’s plenty hot,” said Kramer, pointing to the thermometer needle at 60C (140F). “Cholera would be dead in less than a second.”

Haiti is trying to fight what has exploded into the worst cholera epidemic in modern history, with 57% of global cholera cases last year concentrated on this tiny half-island. Cholera is an easily treatable, yet deadly, waterborne disease that spreads through faeces-infected water.

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About fromourisland

Gardener, knitter, wife, mother of 2, grandmother, and lots more.
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