Return 2 Haiti, co-founder Pierre Balthazar, describes the water situation in Haiti’s Belle Anse region.
Finding a source of potable water when in the country of Haiti is not as simple as turning on the faucet – a habit we have been accustomed to in the United States for some time. Our mission team, visiting the rural Southeast, recently waited hours in the town of Belle Anse for a boat to arrive with safe bottled water.
For almost the entire population of a town of 50,000 people, clean drinking water is a luxury and contaminated water is a daily threat to health. The city water treatment system, built in 2006 by Water Mission International, is broken. The piping system for the water supply is more than 40 years old, is leaking and has not been working for some time. Last December, a delegation from the town approached us with the request of helping them in getting the water in the city flowing again. Wince that time, I have been as a man on a mission.
Water Situation in Haiti, a Complex Problem
The water problem in Haiti is complex. According to data from Charity Water, 70% of all the Haitians lack direct access to potable water. Moreover, because of problems related to widespread deforestation and erosion, the water quality and quantity is progressively diminishing. In Belle Anse, most homes are not connected to any sort of citywide water pipe system. Although indoor plumbing is available in some of the newer homes, there is no city water running through those pipes. Only a minority can afford to collect the water from an available source, store it in a water reservoir installed on the roof of their home, and use a water pump to get a shower and toilet working.
How safe is the water?
Many do not consider the water to be of safe drinking quality. Bathing and washing is what it can be used for. So, the average Haitian, in addition to all the other life expenditures, ends up needing to buy a supply of drinking water daily. Here is the problem: In a country where the average salary is less than $2/day, this water is not only scarce, but also expensive. Most people cannot afford it and are forced to obtain their drinking water from any source available to them. Unfortunately, most sources are contaminated with human and animal waste, due to the absence of a sewage system. Still, that dirty water is often used for cooking and drinking, exposing the population, especially children, to germs that cause diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever.
So, I have called Water Missions International. Their headquarters is in Charleston, South Carolina. Last March, they sent a team of water experts in to the city of Belle Anse to assess the water problem there. To solve the problem, they say, they will have to build an artesian well, complete with a water treatment facility to make the water potable. The price tag: $40,000 USD.
Return 2 Haiti is committed to making available good, safe drinking water in a town where contaminated water robs the lives and the hopes of an entire population. Would you like to help?