Jul 21, 2011

Water System Upgrades Help 200,000 Haitians Gain Access to Clean Water

Distribution system was damaged during 2007 violence and 2010 earthquake

In Cité Soleil, one of the largest and most deprived neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, recently upgraded its water supply system. The project, which was carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in close cooperation with local authorities, has improved access to drinking water for approximately 200,000 residents.

Two pumping stations have been put back into operation after renovation work lasting six months. On July 14, responsibility for running the stations was transferred to the national water board, which placed them under the responsibility of the technical operations centre of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

The stations will supply water not only for Cité Soleil residents but also for other parts of Port-au-Prince connected to the water distribution network, which now has a capacity of more than 320 cu meters of water per day. Fifteen liters of water per person per day should be available to Cité Soleil residents at a reasonable price.

Since the end of 2004, the ICRC has been upgrading the network supplying clean drinking water, which had been in an advanced state of deterioration due to a lack of maintenance caused mainly by the violence that raged until February 2007. "Violent clashes seriously affected access to all basic necessities, especially to drinking water," said Javier Cordoby, an ICRC water and sanitation engineer working in Haiti. "It was imperative that we again make water available more regularly, and in better security conditions, for residents of Cité Soleil."

Water infrastructure in Cité Soleil was also damaged by the January 2010 earthquake. The ICRC therefore took action during the weeks that followed to repair the many leaks in the network. To date, in addition to the two pumping stations, 14 public water points have been rebuilt and five others are undergoing repair. In addition, 10 new upgrades are set to be carried out before the end of the year.

Enhancing access to drinking water helps to improve sanitary conditions in Cité Soleil and to prevent such water-borne diseases as cholera, which has been plaguing Haiti since October of last year. The ICRC has played an active part in the struggle against the epidemic since it first took hold. The organization has distributed 3.8 million water purification tablets and more than 800 kilograms of chlorine to residents and to the owners of private water distribution points and basins in Cité Soleil.

With a view to ensuring that these works are sustainable, the ICRC is supporting the authorities in their efforts to reform the management system of the Cité Soleil water distribution network so as to make it more transparent and self-sufficient.