Haiti: ICRC activities between October to December 2006
31-12-2006 Operational Update
Round-up of ICRC field activities, including visits to people deprived of their freedom, health care, water and habitat, promotion of international humanitarian law and support for the Haitian National Red Cross Society.
Visiting prisoners is one of the ICRC’s traditional activities. In the framework of its mandate to ensure respect for the life and dignity of victims of conflicts and internal violence and of persons deprived of their freedom, the ICRC visits roughly 440,000 detainees in 70 countries worldwide each year. The aim of the visits is to assess the material and psychological conditions of detention and to prevent ill-treatment. In Haiti, the ICRC visits permanent places of detention(civilian prisons) in conformity with its procedures for such visits, paying especially close attention to persons deprived of their freedom for reasons relating to the armed violence and political tension. During the period under review, its delegates conducted 20 visits to several places of detention, including 12 civilian prisons and four police stations.
From 4 to 15 December, a training seminar was held in Port-au-Prince for health care staff from Haiti’s civilian prisons. Thirty nurses from all the country’s departments took part in the seminar, which was organized by the ICRC in cooperation with the Medical Sub-division of the Haitian Prison Administration (DAP).
The nurses received training on the DAP Sub-division’s working methods (treatment protocol, order form, monthly activity report) and on the illnesses most commonly encountered in prisons.
The ICRC regularly visits all detention centres in Haiti. The aim is to improve the conditions of detention by engaging in confidential dialogue with the prison authorities. Since first working in the country, the ICRC has coordinated its activities with the DAP to this end.
Water and sanitation in prisons
Since early 2006 the ICRC has paid special attention to three of the country’s civilian prisons (those in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haitien and Anse-à-Veau), where, together with the authorities, it is rehabilitating the water and sanitation systems, food depots and kitchens.
In order to improve sanitation, hygiene and access to water, in particular in the three Haitian prisons identified as priorities, the ICRC, working in cooperation with the DAP, has undertaken the following activities:
In the national penitentiary (PENAT) , a general short circuit caused the main pump to break down. The ICRC purchased a new pump, which CAMEP (metropolitan water board) technicians installed, restoring an adequate flow of water. At the same time the CAMEP technicians replaced the drill rod. The ICRC also made available three tanker trucks (9,000 gallons in all) so that the detainees had a minimum supply of water while the repairs were being made.
The ICRC distributed 140 buckets with lids, 85 five-gallon drinking water containers, and cleaning products for each cell. The incinerator for dangerous waste from the infirmary was delivered and installed in a corner of the dispensary. Repair and renovation work on the dispensary’s sanitary facilities (showers, toilets, sinks and drains) was completed.
Work started on renovating the food depot and to repair the concrete floor in front of the kitchen. Once the depot has been renovated, the ICRC is to provide logistical support for the PENAT and the DAP to ensure their respective stocks are regularly replenished.
At the civilian prison in Cap-Haitien , a solution was found with the SNEP (national water authority) for the water supply problem. The prison now receives drinking water from the town mains via a new hook-up. In addition, repair and renovation work started as planned in late November on the water distribution system, the kitchen and the depot.
At Anse-à-Veau prison , work continued on the project to improve water distribution in the prison.
Humanitarian needs rema in huge in Cité Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s largest working class neighbourhoods. The ICRC provides support for two HNRCS first-aid posts, one of whose tasks is to evacuate the wounded to adequate hospital facilities. It also continues to work to improve living conditions in the neighbourhood, renovating the water distribution system and working in partnership with the SMCRS (local refuse collection service) to remove waste. During the period under review:
Rescue workers from the HNRCS Cité Soleil local committee evacuated 148 wounded and sick people to hospital facilities (St Joseph, Choscal, the State University Hospital (HUEH), MSF-H, La Plaine, Fontaine).
During the Christmas season, the ICRC backed Youth Red Cross activities in Cité Soleil to organize socio-cultural events (theatre, music, sports) for young people.
Working in partnership, CAMEP, COGESEP-SOL (the Cité Soleil drinking water management committee) and the ICRC repaired all 53 stand pipes in the seven management zones of the drinking water distribution system. In some zones, however, the pipes were damaged by acts of vandalism. CAMEP technicians, accompanied by the ICRC, intervened on several occasions at the Duvivier D2 pumping station. A series of generator breakdowns in November and December made it difficult to guarantee regular supplies of drinking water for Cité Soleil’s population.
The ICRC continues to provide support (fuel, spare parts for the multi-collector truck, security, etc.) for SMCRS endeavours regularly to empty solid waste containers.
Support for the National Society’s work is one of the ICRC’s principal activities in Haiti. The ICRC provides the National Society with constant institutional support and organizes training in emergency preparedness and humanitarian principles for rescue workers. During the period under review, the following activities were carried out:
Two things happened in December to underscore the Movement’s tenacity and the fruitful cooperation it has established with the Haitian authorities. First, on 6 December 2006 the Republic of Haiti became one of the 76 States signatory to Additional Protocol III to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. Protocol III, which was adopted on 8 December 2005, deals with the recognition of an additional protective emblem: the red crystal. Second, on 20 December 2006 Haiti acceded to Additional Protocols I and II. These protocols, which were adopted in June 1977, deal with the protection of the victims of international and non-international armed conflicts respectively. With the accession of Haiti, there are 167 States party to Protocol I and 163 to Protocol II. For the ICRC delegation in Haiti, this is the outcome of an intense and relatively long lobbying effort directed at the Haitian authorities.
Renovation of the premises used by the HNRCS Belladères committee (a few kilometres from the border with the Dominican Republic) - The local committee is often asked to lend assistance to Haitians expelled by the Dominican Republic. In 2005, the French Red Cross renovated the premises donated by the municipality, transforming them into a library managed by the Youth Red Cross committee. The ICRC provided technical and financial support to enable the National Society to finish the work and renovate a small room adjoining the library that will be used as a first-aid post by volunteers. The ICRC also provided the committee with first-aid equipment and office material.
Municipal elections of 3 December - The ICRC helped finance the nationwide deployment of National Society rescue workers and ambulances throughout the day, enabling them to come to the aid of any sick or wounded people. It also provided 191 first-aid kits to regional and local HNRCS committees.
Training in communication – The ICRC helped the Port-de-Paix regional committee organize and provide training to roughly 40 officials from the regional committee and local committees in Nord-Ouest department. The purpose of the training, which was dispensed by the National Society communication department, was to allow the participants to strengthen their capacity for institutional communication and to spread knowledge of humanitarian values.
Training of radio operators – Between 8 and 11 November, the National Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC organized a course for about 30 volunteer radio operators from regional and some local committees from the Sud, Centre and Ouest departments. The course provided instruction on the use and maintenance of the radio communication system, with a view to ensuring that the national system linking all HNRCS branches remained operational in the event of a disaster.
Preparation of a cooperation agreement strategy (CAS ) - The ICRC and the International Federation helped the National Society draw up and adopt a CAS for Haiti. The CAS will serve two purposes: to reaffirm the National Society’s priorities in terms of action and development, and to define the operational and implementation framework for programmes in aid of the National Society run by foreign Natio nal Societies present in Haiti. Under the supervision of a National Society consultant, a workshop was organized to give renewed impetus to the process and to inform the Movement’s components about its objectives.
Promotion of humanitarian principles
The ICRC’s preventive work consists in spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles, whose aim is to limit the harmful consequences of conflicts and armed violence. Of particular importance is ensuring that the red cross and red crescent emblems, the Movement’s staff and medical work are respected at all times. The ICRC pursued its dialogue with all the stakeholders, in particular weapons bearers, so as to obtain access to the victims of conflict and armed violence and to maintain its independent and neutral humanitarian action. During the period under review, contact was maintained with the country’s authorities, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the national police force (PNH) and various armed groups.
An information meeting was organized for PNH officers in Sud department. Another meeting, on detention and the ICRC’s detention-related activities, was held for DAP agents in Les Cayes. All police officers in charge of police station security took part.
As has been the case since the 15th class graduated, the ICRC devoted an entire week to informing the 569 police cadets of the 18th graduating class of the National Police Academy about the Red Cross Movement, its activities in Haiti, the importance of the emblem and humanitarian principles.
Two information meetings were held for officers from the Uruguayan Battalion and the Uruguayan Infantry Company, based in Le s Cayes and Port-Salut respectively. In all, 180 soldiers took part.