About 750,000 people, including children, lacked access to safe water and sanitation following Matthew’s passage in October 2016, in the South and Grand’Anse departments. In response, UNICEF and its partners have implemented water-supply projects in support of the National Office For Safe Water and Sanitation (DINEPA).
It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, on Tuesday, 7 March. In front of the national school of Sovo, in the municipality of Camp Perrin, a family of three girls, two boys and their mother, fills jerry cans from community faucets.
The head of the family welcomes us with a wide smile. Guerline, 38, introduces her 11, 10 and 8 year-old girls, and her 5 and 3 year-old boys. The youngest two keep running and teasing each other, distracting their smiling sisters.
Looking for water wasn’t always such an easy job, Guerline remembers:
“Before, we used to go to La Source for water. It’s a water source an hour walk from here. The road is rocky, and muddy during rainy weather. The children had to accompany me there after school. Once back home, they were often too exhausted to do their homework.”
My children were often sick,because of the water, which was of poor quality
In addition to the physical exhaustion of collecting water, the poor quality of La Source’s water had consequences on her children’s health, according to Guerline:
“My children were often sick because of the water, which was of poor quality. They suffered from stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting, and I had to take them to the hospital all the time. I fry food to sell, and my husband is an ironworker. We do not have the financial resources to cover all these medical expenses. When it stopped raining, La Source dried up. It was then that we understood that it was not a natural source, but rainwater that we had been drinking and using – but still we had no choice, there are no water wells around here. “
Community Engagement to save water
The water Guerline and her family are collecting today is drinkable. The faucets are attached to two flexible tanks containing 10 thousand liters of water each. This is a UNICEF project implemented by Oxfam, with financial support from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
In Sovo, the flexible tanks are replenished every three days by the South OREPA (Regional Office for Safe Water and Sanitation), and it is the only water provided to serve the entire community of approximately 1,330.
”We started to conserve the water, to keep it available longer, and make sure that nobody is left unserved”
The community organized itself to maximize the benefit for everyone, Guerline explains: “The tanks are not enough to serve the entire community. Sometimes, there was no more water left before the water trucks came again, so we started to conserve the water, to keep it available as long as possible, and to make sure that nobody was left unserved. We use the water from the tanks only for drinking. For our domestic activities, such as cooking, laundry and household, we use water drawn from the river La Ravine, which crosses the locality through a canal. At home, we have reduced our intake from three to two jerry cans of water per day, but it is getting more and more difficult. As the weather gets hotter, the children need to hydrate more.
Since we have access to treated water, going back and forth to the hospital is over. My children don’t get sick any more.
Guerline is thankful for the safe water that they receive from the flexible tanks, “Since we have access to treated water, going back and forth to the hospital is over. My children don’t get sick any more. The availability of this water is a blessing.”
OREPA is currently facilitating the dialogue between Sovo’s community and Camp Perrin Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Committee (CAEPA), during the transition from the Post-Matthew Emergency plan’s water supply project, toward the lasting restoration of the water network for this locality in the South of Haiti.
March 21, 2017,
UNICEF Communication-South, Haiti
 Oxfam, Acted, Care, WaterMission, TerreDesHommes
This post is also available in: French