Haiti’s Cité Soleil is at risk of becoming a ‘sacrifice zone’ with its inhabitants facing extreme environmental injustices and an acute waste problem that threatens their health and safety, UN human rights experts* said today.
“Inhabitants of Cité Soleil are exposed to toxic waters and fumes that are the result of dumping and burning toxic waste, and the lack of maintenance of drainage canals overflowing with waste,” said Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights and Pedro Arrojo-agudo, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. “Authorities must urgently collect, remove or dispose all waste to guarantee the basic rights of residents in Cité Soleil,” they said.
Cité Soleil is an impoverished commune in the outskirts of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and home to nearly 400,000 people. An open canal serves as the commune’s sewage system and waste dumps grow into mountains over three metres high near residential areas where children play and go to school.
The experts said they were alarmed by the plight of children living in Cité Soleil.
“They suffer from chronic and sometimes fatal diseases that are preventable and are purportedly caused by exposure to toxic fumes, waters and waste,” they said.
The experts said waste accumulates in open canals that run through the commune, sometimes flooding the streets and people’s homes. “Or this waste is thrown into open dumps where it is left uncovered, unmanaged, and uncontrolled,” they said. To avoid further accumulation of trash and sewage, residents burn the waste, producing a constant haze of toxic smoke throughout the commune and spreading heavy metals, generating dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants in the atmosphere.
“The lack of sound management of waste in Cité Soleil violates the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” the experts said.
The Special Rapporteurs have been in contact with the Haitian authorities regarding the issue but have received no response.