A threat to public health and the environment
The burning of waste on open fires is a common last resort when people have no other options to dispose of their rubbish. This has serious health implications: regularly breathing in the toxic fumes causes respiratory problems, which can be fatal.
But it’s not just burning that’s the problem. Piles of waste emit methane – a greenhouse gas which is damaging to humans and the environment. In the short-term it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches. In the long-term it can lead to respiratory and heart problems, as well as contributing towards the climate crisis.
Climate change is already having a noticeable effect in Haiti – extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms are becoming increasingly common – and communities overrun with solid waste are left significantly more vulnerable to destruction.
When drains and roads are blocked by waste, the area is much more susceptible to flooding and landslides. People are at risk of getting trapped and hurt, and their homes and businesses are often destroyed.
Loving our neighbour means caring for creation
It’s the poorest communities that are suffering the most, struggling with health issues on a daily basis and often experiencing the most destruction in the wake of extreme weather events.
Failing to create sustainable systems for managing waste and looking after the environment is having a direct impact on people’s health and wellbeing.
If we want to love our neighbour, we have to care for creation too.
Marc Antoine, who leads Tearfund’s work in Haiti, sums up the problem: ‘In Haiti, the lack of waste management infrastructure, vulnerability to weather-related disasters such as hurricanes and floods, and high rates of unemployment work together to keep communities disempowered.’
Cleaning up and empowering communities
To address this complex problem, Tearfund has partnered with a local business to pilot a new waste management project in the urban area of Carrefour.
The project trains community members to care for creation and how to sort and manage their waste without resorting to dumping it in rivers or burning it in the streets.
Tearfund’s local partner collects waste from homes in the community on a weekly basis. This is providing jobs for young people who were previously unemployed, giving them new opportunities and a way to earn income to support their families.
Rather than adding the waste to landfill, the business is doing something innovative and exciting. They transform plastic waste into paving tiles and organic waste into compost.