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Voices from the Field Featuring Brian Hubbard

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Brian Hubbard. Photo courtesy of Brian Hubbard.
Brian Hubbard. Photo courtesy of Brian Hubbard.

My name is Brian Hubbard, and I am a health scientist in CDC’s Environmental Health Services Branch. Read on to learn how I worked directly with the Haitian government to improve water sanitation efforts.

Global access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene education can reduce illness and death from disease, leading to improved health, poverty reduction, and better social and economic development. But many countries face challenges providing these basic necessities to their residents. In turn, this leaves people at risk for diseases related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). CDC water activities (e.g., community water systems) and programs (e.g., Safe Water System) can empower communities to better understand how to prevent and treat the contamination that affects their drinking water.

Poor Water Sanitation

Water and sanitation conditions were at crisis levels after the devastating earthquake in January 2010 and the cholera outbreak in October 2010. Before these events, Haiti had the lowest water and sanitation coverage in the western hemisphere. To address the ongoing cholera epidemic, CDC assigned staff to provide targeted WASH technical assistance.

I was assigned to work with DINEPA, the Haitian Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation, in 2012 to build its rural water and sanitation workforce. This assistance required skills and expertise in the following:

  • WASH subject-matter,
  • Organizational and strategic planning,
  • Instructional design and training,
  • Monitoring and evaluation, and
  • Managing people in a cross-cultural setting

DINEPA faced a number of challenges with its workforce. For example, when I arrived in Haiti, DINEPA did not have a rural workforce capable of responding to the water, sanitation, and hygiene needs of communities.

Water systems in many small, rural communities in Haiti were in complete disrepair; in most cases, sanitation did not exist. This means that spring and surface water sources were under constant threat of contamination from daily human activities such as

  • bathing and clothes washing in the streams,
  • farming and animal care practices, and
  • sewage.

Community water committees are responsible for managing water supply infrastructure, collecting fees, and ensuring chlorination. These committees did not exist in many communities, and chlorination of household drinking water was infrequent at best.

Developing a Rural Water and Sanitation Workforce

I initiated and directed activities to help DINEPA develop its rural water and sanitation workforce in accordance with its goal to expand its presence in rural Haitian communities. I also worked with CDC’s Center for Global Health, Health Systems Reconstruction Office to define and carry out the mission.

DINEPA water technician learning to use a color disc test kit to measure chlorine residual. Photo courtesy of Gabriella Lockhart.
DINEPA water technician learning to use a color disc test kit to measure chlorine residual. Photo courtesy of Gabriella Lockhart.

My team and I selected and worked with additional staff competent in Haitian Kreyol (also called Creole). I organized a team of CDC scientists, visiting fellows, and guest researchers to design and develop a targeted WASH training program. Some of my core activities for the Haiti work included

  • developing work plans and supervising activities for three CDC employees on my team
  • managing specific field activities of two CDC contractors
  • supervising development of technical materials for the WASH training program
  • developing and organizing specific tasks for Haitian partners to help develop the Haiti WASH training program.

Training Modules: Ensuring Safe Water for Communities

My leadership and the work of my team resulted in the development of 18 training modules. We presented the training modules in a 2-week train-the-trainer event organized by DINEPA and CDC for 20 of DINEPA’s water, sanitation, and hygiene specialists. These specialists formed training teams that implemented the same training program for 264 potable water and sanitation technicians in all 10 Haitian departments.

A full list of the modules and accompanying descriptions are available in the article, Development of Haiti’s Rural Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Workforce.

The modules covered topics such as principles of
water quality, environmental sampling methods,
sanitary inspection, formation of local water
committees, and household water treatment and
safe storage.

I developed 14 sanitary-survey instruments to support the field-based efforts of DINEPA’s water technicians. My team and I also participated in four departmental trainings.

Brian Hubbard checks for screening on the vent of a water storage tank, Haiti 2011. Photo courtesy of Brian Hubbard.
Brian Hubbard checks for screening on the vent of a water storage tank, Haiti 2011. Photo courtesy of Brian Hubbard.

The work in Haiti was professionally very rewarding. I found it personally gratifying to partner with and develop friendships with our DINEPA colleagues and other CDC staff engaged in Haiti WASH activities. Working with underserved communities to strengthen WASH programs can have a profound impact on health and development. I am very proud to work for an organization that values this work. CDC’s partnership with DINEPA helped them address and accomplish their long-term institutional goal of expanding DINEPA’s water and sanitation workforce throughout the entire country.

Hope you enjoyed reading about CDC Scientist Brian Hubbard. Interested in other Voices from the Field experiences or NCEH/ATSDR accomplishments? Visit the NCEH/ATSDR Your Health, Your Environment blog!

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