Water in Crisis - Haiti

Katherine Sentlinger, Guest Writer

As the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Haiti has to deal with issues of poverty and water scarcity on a daily basis. According to a study conducted by The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, "only 55.2 percent of the population has access to an improved water source, while close to 70 percent does not have direct access to potable water. These figures, however, almost definitely overstate Haitians' access to improved water sources, since public systems are rarely available year round" (15, CHRGJ, et al).

Expenses also often create problems with water availability. The World Bank estimates that, "around 54 percent of the population lives on less than US$1 a day and 78 percent on less than US$2 (2001 data)" (The World Bank). The people of Haiti often resort to gathering water from 'garbage-filled' rivers to supply their households with water for their daily needs, including cooking and drinking when water becomes too expensive or there they do not have access to a clean water source (36, CHRGJ, et al).

Access to clean, fresh water is a main concern in Haiti, where waterborne illnesses, such as typhoid, cholera, and chronic diarrhea, are the cause of more than half of the deaths in the country every year. Contaminated water is also one of the leading causes of childhood illness and the very high infant death rate in Haiti (57 for every 1000 births) .

Now, in the months after the massive 7.0 earthquake in early 2010, the problems of water scarcity have increased greatly. The earthquake had a devastating effect on the entire country, including the already inadequate clean water supply. Earthquakes often cause damage to wells and water systems, which are a major source of fresh water for the people of Haiti. The Water Project has been supporting Living Water International financially in their efforts to repair damaged wells in Haiti. Through the repairing of these wells, The Water Project and Living Water International have provided thousands of people access to reliable, clean water.