Water In The Time Of Cholera: Haiti’s Most Urgent Health Problem
In the teeming city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, millions of people have no reliable water supply.
Many of the underground pipes that did exist were ruptured by the 2010 earthquake. Many public water kiosks are dry.
So life for most people is a constant struggle for water. And now that cholera has invaded Haiti, safe drinking water has become Haiti’s most urgent public health problem. Contaminated water is the main cause of cholera, which has sickened 530,000 Haitians since late 2010 and killed more than 7,000.
In Port-au-Prince, street vendors sell water in plastic baggies for a few pennies. Much of the city’s water supply is trucked in by commercial vendors or a dwindling number of nongovernmental organizations that took on the task after the quake.
On one busy street corner, just outside one of the city’s biggest slums, people with plastic buckets jostle to get to a length of garden hose that snakes out of a hole in the pavement — a source of free water.
A young woman named Marlene Lucien controls the hose. A self-appointed keeper of the peace, she tries to prevent fights from breaking out.
Is it safe water? “We are used to it,” someone replies. “It’s the water we use every day.” But another person waiting in line says she does worry about cholera. “We are scared of it because it can kill you within hours,” she says. But she has no choice; she has to drink whatever water she can get.
Haiti has never had the kind of water systems that developed nations take for granted. Chalk it up to decades of dysfunctional governments and unreliable international aid. Whatever the reasons, it’s never happened. -Richard Knox
(Video Credit: John Poole, Richard Knox, Jane Greenhalgh)