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Haiti: ICRC activities from January to October 2008

22-12-2008 Operational Update

Overview of ICRC activities: providing assistance in districts affected by the violence; visiting people deprived of their freedom; health; water and habitat; promoting humanitarian principles; and supporting the Haitian National Red Cross Society.

Although the security situation improved in 2008, the absence of basic State services in districts affected by the violence has had a serious impact on living conditions. Access to water and primary medical care cannot be guaranteed, and the humanitarian situation in these areas is therefore a matter of concern.

The number of detainees in Haitian prisons continues to increase as a direct result of the Haitian government’s fight against crime supported by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Prison overpopulation is exacerbated by the government's difficulties in implementing a judicial reform, which consists, among other things, of increasing prison space to comply with international standards.

Between the end of August and the middle of September, four particularly destructive tropical storms ravaged the country, causing flooding and major damage and loss of life.

Assisting the wounded and the sick in Cité Soleil and Martissant 

  ©CICR/E. Joseph    
Port-au-Prince, Martissant. Haitian Red Cross workers transferring a patient to a medical centre.    

The ICRC supports the Haitian Red Cross in its efforts to offer a guaranteed service in first-aid and evacuation of the wounded and sick in the shantytowns of Cité Soleil and Martissant.

  • Between January and October 2008, Cité Soleil volunteers, supported by the ICRC, evacuated 95 people to hospital facilities.

  • The ICRC helped the Haitian Red Cross implement a programme for evacuating the wounded and the sick to Martissant. A total of 636 wounded and sick people were evacuated.

  • During demonstrations over the high cost of living, Haitian Red Cross volunteers, with logistical support from the ICRC, treated 136 people and evacuated 46 of them to hospital facilities. First-aid kits were also distributed.
Improving conditions for detainees 
Between January and October 2008, the ICRC visited 7,159 people deprived of their freedom in 20 places of detention.
  • The ICRC attended meetings with the Haitian authorities, UN agencies and other sponsors with the aim of improving infrastructure. The ICRC plays an important role in facilitating cooperation between the different parties.



  • The ICRC donated an ambulance to the prison authority (DAP) to be used for transferring sick detainees to hospital. The organization also gave medicines to the Haitian State University Hospital and the Sanatorium, and ensured that sick detainees from the civilian prison in Port-au-Prince received follow-up.

  • Nine round-table meetings were organized on health in detention, which looked at tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

  ©CICR/K. Gruszczynska    
Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté. Physical exercises being used to screen prisoners for beriberi during a campaign against scabies    
     Campaign against scabies  


  • In cooperation with DAP, the ICRC continued the national campaign against scabies and skin mycoses and treated 1,159 detainees.

  • The ICRC ensured that cells and courtyards in the places of detention targeted by the campaign were cleaned and disinfected. At Gonaïves police station, the latrine pits were also emptied.

 Water and sanitation in places of detention  

  • The ICRC gave a 600-gallon water tank to Pétionville civilian prison.

  • The borehole casing at Port-au-Prince civilian prison, which had been ruined by the tropical storms, was repaired.

  • At Port-au-Prince civilian prison, the ICRC completed a project to renovate the prison’s water-supply infrastructure. The prison now has an extra 215 m3 of water (in addition to the 80 m3 already available).

  • In Petit-Goâve, the ICRC built eight showers and added toilets to one cell.

  • At Anse-à-Veau civilian prison, the ICRC fitted fans inside the cells and installed a solar energy electrical system.

  • At Jacmel civilian prison, the ICRC put in a new connection from the prison to the public water network.

  • At Gonaïves police station, the ICRC renovated a kitchen and a stockroom, built new showers and refurbis hed the officers’ toilets.

  • Following the tropical storms, the ICRC cleaned out the courtyard of Gonaïves police station which was full of mud that had been carried along by the water. Hygiene items and medicines were distributed.

Water and sanitation in Cité Soleil 

  ©CICR/K. Gruszczynska    
Port-au-Prince, Cité Soleil. A fountain repaired by ICRC and its partners.    
    Between January and October 2008, over 200 ,000 people benefited from the ICRC’s water and sanitation programmes in Cité Soleil.
  • The ICRC, in partnership with Cité Soleil’s water management committee (COGESEP-SOL) and the city water board (CAMEP), renovated the area around 13 tap stands.

  • The ICRC supported COGESEP-SOL’s work: renovating and equipping an office, paying salaries, and building a technical workshop fitted with a solar-powered electrical system.

  • The ICRC supplied the pumping stations with 1,200 gallons of fuel.

  • The ICRC also repaired and upgraded four latrines in the shantytown.

Enhancing understanding of the ICRC's mandate 

The ICRC continued to engage in dialogue with all parties, in particular with weapon bearers. However, contact with the highest political authorities in Haiti had to be suspended for around five months following April’s food crisis, which led to the government’s resignation.

 Political authorities  

  • Contact was made with political parties and parliamentary groups.

 Haitian national police  


  • Around 100 police officers responsible for making arrests were alerted to the problem of detainee protection.

  • Information sessions were organized for the benefit of 85 officers from the national police and the prison service.

  • The ICRC trained 250 new DAP officers on health and hygiene in prisons and on rights.

  ©CICR/J. Charles    
Sri Lankan military base, Port-au-Prince. ICRC familiarizing UN military personnel with humanitarian law. 
     The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)  


  • Information sessions on the ICRC’s mandate and activities and on international humanitarian law were organized for almost 400 servicemen, officers and sergeants from different MINUSTAH battalions.


  • The ICRC continued to run an awareness and information campaign for residents and armed groups in the Martissant area. An information session on the Red Cross'mandate and activities was organized for associations in Bel-Air, a run-down district of Port-au-Prince.




  • Around 350 students participated in international humanitarian law awareness sessions, 50 of whom were approached to set up a human-rights club.

Cooperation with the Haitian Red Cross 
  • Courses are run which prepare first-aiders for dealing with emergency situations and which train them to disseminate humanitarian principles.

  • The various regional committees are regularly supplied with first-aid equipment.

  ©CICR/E. Joseph    
Port-au-Prince, Cité Soleil. Haitian Red Cross and ICRC distributing relief items to victims of tropical storms. 
    Di saster response
  • In the wake of the tropical storm Noel, the ICRC provided the Haitian Red Cross with logistical support in distributing aid to affected families in the Nippes department (South).

  • As part of the preparation for the hurricane season, the ICRC organized a course for Haitian Red Cross volunteers in Cité Soleil, who then ran an awareness campaign among vulnerable communities in the area.

  • Following the tropical storms, ICRC teams, working with the Haitian Red Cross and the International Federation, helped victims in Port-au-Prince, Gonaïves, Cabaret, Cité Soleil and Martissant.

  • The ICRC donated equipment and medicines to the town of Cabaret. Body bags were distributed for body management here and in Gonaïves.

  • The ICRC provided the Haitian Red Cross with logistical support by transporting patients.

  • 250 families in Martissant and 1,700 in Cité Soleil received aid.

  • The ICRC supported the Haitian Red Cross’ efforts to reunite family members who had been split up by the disaster.



 "Safer Access" introductory course  


  • In cooperation with the Canadian and the Haitian National Red Cross Societies, the ICRC organized a course to help volunteer first-aiders display the right attitude and behaviour to gain better access to victims while minimizing the risks.

 First-aid training  


  • Volunteers in Martissant and other areas considered to be high-risk by the Haitian Red Cross received a week's first-aid training.

 Restoring family links  

  • The ICRC continued to contribute to a restructure of the National Society tracing service, which restores links between close relatives who have been separated. In Haiti, this mainly consists of tracing the families of detainees who are suf

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