Haiti is currently managing an outbreak of the pandemic virus, COVID-19. Amid a highly contagious virus, Haiti’s water and sanitation facilities are of the utmost importance in containing mass contagion. However, millions of the Haitian population do not have access to clean water and sanitation facilities essential in combating viruses. The Haitian water crisis is complicating the response to Covid-19.
On March 19, Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency wafter confirming its first COVID-19 case. Haiti has confirmed over 6,000 cases of COVID-19 since then. Fortunately, Haiti has seen low death rates reported at less than one percent and, despite experiencing some case spikes, Haiti’s COVID-19 cases have been on a downward trend since the beginning of June. However, without proper precaution, COVID-19 death rates could easily be back on the rise in Haiti.
Covid-19 and Water
According to a public health announcement issued by the World Health (WHO) Organization, one of the most effective ways to avoid COVID-19 contagion is to wash your hands regularly. WHO also recommends frequently cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and everyday objects.
Any WHO-advised COVID-19 prevention measures that require increasing sanitation practices pose a problem for Haiti. Only about half of the Haitian population has access to clean water, and only one-third of the population has access to basic sanitation facilities. The Haitian water crisis is making it difficult for citizens to take precautions. Water resources and sanitation facilities are particularly inadequate in rural areas of Haiti. Lacking the resources to combat COVID-19 will only increase the probability of contracting the already highly contagious virus.
Along with the pressure of a worldwide pandemic, Haiti is still dealing with the effects of a devastating natural disaster. In 2010, an earthquake decimated Haiti destroying essential infrastructures in Port Au Prince, Haiti’s Capital city. The earthquake caused mass displacement and migration to rural areas of Haiti. These highly populated rural areas are now struggling to contain COVID-19 contagion without the necessary resources to prevent widespread contamination.
Another challenge rural Haitians face is the lack of communication with the government about COVID-19 prevention methods. Because rural areas host almost half of the population in Haiti, many Haitians are unaware of the need for proper sanitation. PureWaterfortheWorld.org is working along with the Centre of Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology to get radio and virtual COVID-19 prevention sanitation methods to rural areas of Haiti that experience government communication issues. The PWW proposes driving trucks through rural areas while blasting sanitation messages through loudspeakers.
The Way Forward
While the PWW focuses on the dissemination of information, many are working to provide better sanitation in rural communities. These organizations aim to provide clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19. An organization called Charity:water.org establishes long-term water solutions in rural Haiti. Charity:water.org uses hydrologists and engineers to design wells and pumps that extract water from natural resources in mountains and springs. Up to now, Charity:water.org has invested in 40 water projects in Haiti and over 50,000 all over the world.
The organizations working to provide better and more accessible water resources to rural Haiti will significantly impact the prevention of COVID-19 through sanitation practices. Along with the efforts to advertise the importance of sanitation, the western hemisphere’s poorest country can manage COVID-19 amid a water crisis.
– Kaitlyn Gilbert