Church Helps Haitians Access Clean Water During Cholera Outbreak

The 85th house to be constructed by Brethren Disaster Ministries in Haiti has been completed for the family of Jean Bily Telfort, who serves as general secretary of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti).Photo by Jeff Boshart

The Church of the Brethren is providing help to communities and neighborhoods of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren) to gain access to clean water during the cholera outbreak in Haiti. Jeff Boshart, Haiti coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries, returned Friday, Nov. 12, from a week visiting church leaders and partner organizations in Haiti.

One hundred new water filters have been distributed to the Haitian congregations by Brethren Disaster Ministries, with another 100 water filters to come. A new well dug with funding from Brethren Disaster Ministries has proved to be an artisian well capable of providing a steady flow of clean water for one neighborhood where Haitian Brethren live. Also, a cistern for collecting rainwater funded by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund has been completed on the island of La Tortue. This cistern will serve a school supported by a Haitian Church of the Brethren congregation in Miami, Fla.

The Haitian Brethren are not severely affected by the epidemic, so far. “According to general secretary Jean Bily Telfort and moderator Yves Jean, except for the Peris congregation near St. Marc, where one church member lost her life to the epidemic, they have no other reports of anyone even being sick,” Boshart said.

All of the congregations of Haitian Brethren have been informed about the need for disease prevention, according to Klebert Exceus, Haitian consultant to Brethren Disaster Ministries who supervises the disaster rebuilding projects. The government also is broadcasting information through media sources about how to avoid cholera. Media reports this week indicate that the death toll to cholera in Haiti is now over 1,100, with more than 18,000 people hospitalized for the disease.

Boshart, Exceus, and Jean met last week with Haiti staff of IMA World Health to do planning for the new Brethren health care initiative in Haiti. During the meeting, “IMA encouraged our churches to have water treated with chlorox, a basin, and soap available,” in order to fight the spread of cholera, Boshart said. “They encouraged us to have all churchgoers wash their hands before entering their church buildings for worship.”

In an aside, he added that Haiti mission coordinator and Miami pastor Ludovic St. Fleur joked, “Instead of being a church known for washing feet, we might become known as a church that washes hands.”

A recent success is the artisian well dug just two weeks ago in an area of the city of Gonaives where Brethren have been building homes for disaster survivors. The well is in a neighborhood of 22 homes built together in a small community by Brethren Disaster Ministries in partnership with Sant Kretyen pou Devlopman Entegre (Christian Center for Integrated Development). Brethren Disaster Ministries funded the well, which was dug by an organization called Haiti Outreach.

“After the well was completed, clean, drinkable water began pouring out all over the place, according to local residents,” Boshart said. “Haiti Outreach staff have been drilling wells in Haiti for nearly 20 years and this is only the second artisian well they have come across in all of that time. Not only these 22 families, but many neighbors are getting water there presently.”

Brethren Disaster Ministries also is celebrating completion of its 85th house in Haiti. “This is a special house,” Boshart said, “as it is the first permanent house to be built for any of the Brethren earthquake victims.”

The recipient family of Jean Bily Telfort, general secretary of the National Committee of L’Eglise des Freres, were among the over one million people displaced by the earthquake. After the earthquake he was offered a temporary shelter built by the Brethren, but declined saying it should be given to someone else. Since then, his wife and young son have been living with his mother-in-law some four hours away from their home community in Port-au-Prince. “The family is now reunited!” Boshart rejoiced.

The recipients of food and other aid in several communities, as well as the National Committee of the Haitian Brethren, have sent letters of thanks to Brethren Disaster Ministries for their support in this time of need.

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