Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Water flows freely for Haitian tent camps

Access to drinking water has been one of the areas where some Haitians have seen improvement. Only half of the population had access to water before the quake, now the tent camps have it readily available. The water is now available for free because of the aid groups, before Haitians had to pay for it. Many who lived in poverty could not afford water and went without.

From Time Magazine, writer Jessica Desvarieux has this look at the water in Haiti and describes one smart partnership.

Prior to the quake, about half of Haiti's urban population had access to tap water, according to a 2006 demographic and health survey conducted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Since the quake, community kiosks selling water have been replaced by water trucks and boreholes where children fill buckets to the brim and carry them, carefully balanced on their heads, back to their tents. The United Nations WASH (Water and Sanitation) cluster says relief efforts now meet the water-supply needs for 1.2 million people. (Watch a video on Haiti's quest to secure clean water.)

Aid groups report that they are distributing five liters of drinkable water per person per day, which would be only one-third the recommended minimum per person used in humanitarian assistance programs. But in Carrefour, residents find enough water to drink, wash, bathe and cook with, says Gerson Edee, 35, leader of a camp for 4,500 people established in a sports center

The aid group Oxfam distributes more than 8 million liters of water each day, mostly by trucking it to major camps in Port-au-Prince. Oxfam public-health team leader Raissa Azzalini says the organization monitors the chlorination process of the water and tests every water truck on a daily basis, which has helped avoid contamination. She adds that much of Oxfam's success in water distribution has come via a partnership with Haiti's public-water-works system CAMEP. "CAMEP is not perfect. It was not perfect before the earthquake. But I think CAMEP is trying to do something positive," says Azzalini. (See photos of American entrepreneurs trying to relieve the ailing residents.)

CAMEP dates back to the Duvalier dictatorship in 1964 and in theory services the 3.5 million residents of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region. It has been bolstered and supported for decades by the World Bank and nongovernmental organizations. Asselin Appollon, technical coordinator for CAMEP in Carrefour, says the arrangement with Oxfam gives the Haitian utility the fuel required for water pumps and helps with daily logistics. He welcomes the partnership that began after Oxfam approached CAMEP to offer support — which he says was in all-too-rare contrast with aid organizations that parachute into Haiti and begin operating without approaching existing Haitian structures like CAMEP. "There are nongovernmental groups who come and do a bit of work and then leave. We don't know where they disappear off to," says Appollon.

But while the system established in the wake of the quake is currently working well, Appollon admits that delivering water by truck is too costly to be sustainable. "It's difficult to form an exit strategy, because we don't know how long people will be in camps," says Azzalini of reducing reliance on trucked water. "That's the challenge for the next six months."

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2003216,00.html?xid=rss-topstories#ixzz0tb0wEbuR

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