Some 30,000 residents of three localities in Haiti now have access to potable water, thanks to a sanitation campaign launched by the Government and supported by the United Nations following a cholera epidemic that killed almost 100 people in the community.
“So much of my time was spent looking for water,” recalled Ivrose Paul, who, along with hundreds of other women and children living in the neighbourhood of Los Palmas – which lies 30 minutes north-east of the city of Hinche – used to leave her home early every morning, walk for more than an hour, and wait for hours to secure a container full of water.
The residents of Los Palmas, Guébo and Jacob – three localities in the third communal section of Hinche – were part of an initiative aimed at increasing and improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in schools in particular, but which also focused on supplying water to health centres and homes.
The initiative also involved engaging in the construction of latrines to avoid contamination of water by open defecation, practices which reduce the spread of waterborne diseases including cholera.
In July 2014, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Los Palmas, along with Sandra Honoré, his Special Representative in Haiti and also Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and Laurent Salvador Lamothe, who was then Prime Minister of Haiti, and expressed sympathy to cholera victims and the victims' families.
Following exchanges with the population, the officials laid the first stone of a drinking water system for the citizens of Los Palmas and surrounding areas.
At the time of his visit in 2014, the Secretary-General said that the UN “stands ready to support this initiative in more remote areas, where cholera persists [...] You can count on me and on the United Nations to do our part of the job.”
At an opening ceremony this past week in Jacob, Pierre Ubalijoro, Acting Head of Civil Affairs, who spoke on behalf of Ms. Honoré, stressed that the initiative is crucial to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases including cholera, which he underlined is a priority for the UN in Haiti.
“The work in Los Palmas is part of efforts made by the United Nations family in Haiti and MINUSTAH, various agencies, funds and programs to support Haiti to fight against cholera and to advance towards Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims at ensuring universal access to water and sanitation,” he said.
The work, which cost $163,000, was funded by MINUSTAH and realized under the Mission's Quick Impact Program, which provides support to the Haitian authorities by improving public infrastructure and the living conditions of citizens. Specifically, actions included water source collection and the manufacture and installation of 12 kiosks and two water points.
In 2015, there were 326 cases of cholera identified in affected areas, while in 2016, only 6 cases were identified.