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a1341: Haiti Water Alert, March 2002 - The Poor Pay the HeaviestPrice (fwd)




From: MKarshan@aol.com

Contact:  Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison

March 2002
HAITI WATER ALERT

SHARP DECREASE IN ACCESS TO POTABLE WATER AS THE U.S.-LED EMBARGO BLOCKS
ACCESS TO A 54 MILLION DOLLAR LOAN AIMED TO EXTEND ACCESS TO POTABLE WATER

"The lack of water for basic human needs is one of the most critical problems
in the country.  The lack of access to safe water supply contributes to poor
health and hygiene.  Infections and parasitic diseases, often spread through
unsafe water, are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Haiti."
Water Resources Assesment of Haiti, August 1999
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


The Poorest Pay the Heaviest Price * Unsafe Water, a Leading Cause of
Mortality in Haiti * Only 40% of Haitians Have Access to Potable Water *
Blocked $54 Million Loan to Improve Water Treatment and Distribution Would
Extend Access to Potable Water to the Haitian People * Alarming Deterioration
of Water Supply

Background
Haiti's national system of water treatment and distribution is divided among
three autonomous entities: CAMEP, which services Port-au-Prince exclusively;
SNEP, which services the 28 next largest cities; and POCHEP, which has in its
charge the rural zones.  At the end of 1994, at the end of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's first term as president, CAMEP initiated the
construction of public communal water fountains in poor neighborhoods to
increase access to potable water at affordable prices.  These fountains are
managed by neighborhood "water committees;" who bill end users and in turn
pay monthly charges to CAMEP.  This system has proven to be an efficient and
cost effective method of extending access to potable water to the poorest
sectors of the population.

In 1999, shortly after the government of Haiti (GOH) negotiated a loan
agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to reform the
country's water treatment and distribution system, CAMEP was producing
approximately 100,000 metric cubes of water daily.  Although it registered
27,500 paying residential and business customers, CAMEP was actually serving
up to 630,000 people, which was estimated to represent approximately 40% of
the capital's population.  This level of production was less than half the
level required to meet the needs of all of Port-au-Prince.  SNEP was reaching
only about 45% of its targeted population.  And POCHEP's 90 hydraulic systems
were supplying only 741 public fountains and 1821 private homes in the entire
rural countryside.

Although the communal fountain initiative provided a sustainable, safe water
supply to thousands, it could not keep up with Haiti's rapid urbanization and
population growth, nor close the gap from decades of underinvestment.  The
need for a comprehensive program to reform the system and increase access to
potable water was self-evident.

The IDB Loan to the GOH Would Improve the Level of Services that Provides
Potable Water and Increase Access to Water to the General Population
The IDB potable water loan agreement, like the IDB development loan
agreements for health, education and infrastructure reform, was signed by the
GOH, the president of the IDB, approved by the Haitian parliament, and had
all its preconditions met.  However, to date it remains blocked for
disbursement because of a U.S.-led embargo aimed at forcing political
concessions by the GOH to an obstructionist political opposition with
virtually no support from the population.

This IDB potable water loan project has the following objectives:
   To merge the separate water distribution systems into one more efficient,
national water service agency operating under a new regulatory framework with
specialized training for all personnel.
   The inclusion of the private sector and the integration of local water
committees in this new water service agency.
   Finance the rehabilitation and extension of the infrastructure required
to extend service throughout the country, specifically:
   At least 10 urban systems and
   50 smaller rural systems.
   The project forecasted the following increases in access in these two
targeted areas by the year 2002:
   In draught stricken Port-de-Paix in the rural Northwest of Haiti, access
to potable water would rise from 5 to 39% of a population estimated at
approximately 106,000;
   In the southern city of Cayes, access to potable water would rise from 9
to 30% of a population estimated at approximately 162,000.
   Other areas serviced by this new water service agency would register an
average 15% increase in access to potable water.  Thereafter, every 3 years,
the residential customer base would increase 5% as a result of the projected
re-investment to take place.
   The project also forecasted decreases in the levels of diarrhea, typhoid
and malaria, diseases associated with contaminated drinking supplies.
   The project would reinforce the capacities of the new water service
agency to address environmental issues.

The Water Situation In Haiti Is Rapidly Deteriorating
The lock on funds and the subsequent inability to invest in the country's
water treatment and distribution system have made it impossible to combat the
effects of soil erosion and deforestation, or to respond to increased demands
put on the current system.  The result has been an overall decrease in the
number of people with access to potable water.  In a recent interview, the
Planning Director for CAMEP reported that water production has decreased from
100,000 metric cubes daily to 61,410 metric cubes, with the need estimated at
approximately 220,000 metric cubes daily.

The Poorest Pay the Heaviest Price
The IDB potable water project offers an efficient and cost effective method
to increase access to potable water.  The absence of this investment has had
a devastating economic impact as well as on health.  In Port-au-Prince, as in
the other parts of the country, the absence of CAMEP water lines has forced
people to purchase water from private vendors.  The differences in prices are
staggering:

   Public communal water fountains charge 1 gourde (.4, USD) for 13 gallons
of water;
   At a supermarket, it costs 35 gourdes (approximately $1.40 USD) to buy 5
gallons of water, or 7 gourdes (.28) for 1 gallon of water; and
   A truck of water costs approximately 800 gourdes (approximately $32.00
USD) for 3,000 gallons of water, or 1 gourde (.4) for only 3.75 gallons of
water.

The poor, of course, are paying the heaviest price.  Indeed the IDB
acknowledges that: "the major factor behind economic stagnation [in Haiti] is
the withholding of both foreign grants and loans, associated with the
international community's response to the critical political impasse.  These
funds are estimated at over $500 million dollars."


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