Commentary: Haiti’s water crisis reveals failure of government

by Henry Beaucejour, originally posted on June 1, 2016


If Canada is considered to be the best country in the world to live in, then without a doubt Haiti with all of its very big problems, political, economic and social, must currently be one of the worst countries to live in

There are huge problems as far as water resources and also sanitation infrastructure is concerned. Only 70% of the population has access to safe water resources and fewer than 20% has access to adequate sanitation. The problems experienced with sanitation in this country are very similar to some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and it doesn’t even come close to the regional average of 80% sanitation for most Caribbean and Latin American countries.

Even more astounding, the number of people with access to sanitation has decreased between 1995 and 2010 and this is in large measure due to the huge earthquake that struck this country in 2010, which led to the death of over 250,000 people and a further 500,000 injured. These calamities have to some degree contributed to the issues relating to sanitation.

According to statistics for 2010, only 85% of people in urban areas had access to drinking water, while those figures were only 50% of people in rural areas. When it comes to sanitation, even people in urban areas only 24% has satisfactory sanitation. However, when it comes to rural areas, fewer than 10% of the population has access to sanitation.

Currently there are so many things that are against the people of Haiti and it is an open question when effective assistance will be available. The infrastructure problems, especially surrounding sanitation and water is causing a very large problem as far as the country’s cholera epidemic is concerned. In 2010, there was a huge epidemic that resulted in over 630,000 cases of cholera, of which over 8,000 led to death.

This disease is spread primarily through water consumption and in particular when that water has been contaminated with human waste. Because of the almost nonexistent sanitation infrastructure and because there are no means of effectively treating drinking water this leaves the people of this country exposed to serious cholera epidemics and it becomes all the more serious because the people do not yet have a natural resistance to this sickness. There was no previous exposure to cholera in this country.

There are some organizations internationally that committed themselves to decrease the proportion of people on this planet that are facing problems with water and sanitation by at least 50% in 2015. As anyone can see from the available statistics, it will require a gigantic effort to accomplish this goal in Haiti.

It will need considerably more commitment by international organizations to achieve even a small measure of their objectives, especially as far as Haiti is concerned. The problem with water is already very severe but it is three times as bad when it comes to sanitation and it is unlikely that this problem could be successfully addressed in the near future.

The problem is if those problems of water and sanitation are not addressed simultaneously then there is still no guarantee that contamination of water resources may not take place. One of the most important issues in this country in the ongoing war against cholera is the need for high-quality water.

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