The majority of the population is dependent on expensive and dangerous kerosene lamps, which causes children to be burned daily due to accidents. The crude oil in these lamps provides a basic but poor quality light. The toxic fumes are also the cause of many respiratory problems in the non-ventilated tents and huts.
“I have heard the wheezing lungs of children and adults because of daily inhaling the dangerous fumes of kerosene,” said Vervloet. “Living in a tent or small room without proper ventilation, with only a kerosene lamp, does the same damage to your lungs as smoking of two packs of cigarettes a day.”
In contrast, the water-resistant WakaWaka solar lamps, which only need to be charged for a few hours during the day, produce enough safe solar power to get through the entire night. The lamps have five controls, from very bright to night-light.
Living in darkness is not only inconvenient but has a devastating impact on the economy. Students struggle to study without proper lighting and vendors are robbed of the ability to extend their working hours once daylight fades.
“We take electricity for granted here in the States,” said former Florida Congressional Candidate J.R. Gaillot, who is of Haitian decent. “Too many people are dying because of the threat from dangerous kerosene lamps. The kids can’t study in the dark and vendors aren’t able to sell.”
No lights also equals more crime. The darkness is a perfect haven for thieves to roam the streets. “Living in a tent city or any dark place can be especially dangerous for women, the rape percentage is quite high,” said Vervloet.
However, Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor, said there has been some progress. “This earthquake destroyed so much, but it did not destroy the will to live or the desire for something better within its people.”
“It’s true, progress can be slow, and some who have visited Port-au-Prince say nothing is being done,” adds Mahfood. “In spite of all the challenges, homes are being built and lives are being transformed.”
However, Dutch Consul General in Haiti Rob Padberg said recovery and reconstruction has been painfully slow. “The disappointing realization today, three years later, is that still many try to overcome the setbacks and losses and even many tens of thousands of people live in tents without proper bathroom facilities, a rain proof tent, running water and electricity,” said Padberg.
WakaWaka Light also has plans to build an assembly plant in Haiti that will manufacture the solar lights. At full capacity it will create around 100 jobs. The dream is for the lamps to not only benefit the people of Haiti but for the solar devices to be imported to the States, Canada, South America and the Caribbean.
The company is less than two years old and Waka Waka’ means ‘bright light’ in the Swahili language.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti