Emerging Pathogens Institute - University of Florida

Water Resources in Haiti

The January, 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti severely impacted access to potable water in a country already compromised with respect to its citizens having dependable sources of clean water.  These deficiencies were a major contributor to the massive cholera outbreak that started in October of 2010, and which has continued to the present time.

The immediate aftermath of the earthquake and the resultant cholera epidemic saw a significant influx of international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) establishing relief efforts and mission endeavors in Haiti, many concentrating upon improving access to potable water.

In the areas of Leogane and Gressier alone, 545 water points were established – 56% via newly-dug wells by the IOs and NGOs.

As of March, 2013, 377 water-points in these areas were identifiable. Of these, fecal coliform data were available for 345 water-points.

Within the three year period between the earthquake and this inventory, 16% of the water-points were non-functional (most due to mechanical failure with repair parts unavailable).

Management of newly-dug wells was spotty, with many of the IOs and NGOs having ‘dug their wells and left the country’.

In the March, 2013 audit, more than 37% of the 345 wells contained fecal coliform bacteria. Among unimproved water-sources sampled in the audit, 80.9% showed this contamination, against 24.6% that did not.

Having a contractor dig and mechanize a well in Haiti costs between $7,000 and $11,000 depending upon depth, wellhead construction, and pumps used.  When the organizations left the country touting their success at having helped provide access to good water, no one was able to repair the pumps when they failed.

Today many of these water-points are either dormant, rendering no benefit, or contaminated and still being used – creating a significant public health risk.

EPI in conjunction with the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and the Medical College of Haiti is holding an International Water Summit November 16 and 17 in Haiti for the purpose of agreeing upon a joint strategy to address the issue of potable water access.

This will be a groundbreaking summit as it will be the first such effort to create an international water-access strategy for Haiti, building on university and government expertise in public health, medicine, engineering, and logistics, to a tackle one of Haiti’s most serious public health issues.

EPI seeks financial support for this summit. The cost is estimated to be $40,000 for the event.

We would appreciate any opportunity to provide you or your organization more information on the summit, or to address any group with interest in this effort.

Please click here to pledge your support.