Breaking the vicious circle of water and poverty

Project completed
A girl drinks water from a tap
Thanks to the SDC project school children have access to clean drinking water. © SDC SDC

Access to clean water is a major problem for people living in rural areas of Haiti. The main objective of the project supported by the SDC is to provide these people with access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. At the same time, a support mechanism for those involved in the maintenance and management of water supply systems has been put in place in order to secure their efficient operation over the long term.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Drinking water and basic sanitation (WASH) (til 2016)
01.11.2011 - 30.06.2016
CHF 8'780'000

Access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities has positive effects on health, well-being, quality of nutrition and income opportunities. But in Haiti, of the 7 million people who live in rural or peri-urban areas, less than 10% benefit from such access. Infrastructure, such as supply systems, irrigation facilities and sanitation installations (including toilets is extremely rudimentary. The outbreak of cholera that occurred after the earthquake in 2010 was a grim reminder of the problems that can arise due to lack of access to clean water.

Securing access to basic facilities
The “Clean Water and Sanitation” project is being implemented by Helvetas Haiti and financed by the SDC. Its aim is to provide reliable and lasting access to drinking water and basic sanitation facilities for 36,000 people, and toilets for 10,000 people in three Haitian communities. At the same time it focuses on building the capacities of local players (communities, water supply committees, local authorities, the private sector, decentralised government services) so that they can fulfil their duties of realising, managing and monitoring the systems.

Based on effective needs
The various projects are being planned and implemented in close cooperation with the population, the local authorities and government services. They are based on local initiatives that take the effective needs of the population into account. Helvetas paves the way for local actors so they can take the necessary action themselves and provides them with methodological support.
During the previous project phase (between 2008 and 2011), around 20 water supply installations and sanitation facilities were installed, renovated or enlarged in three communities, providing access to clean water for around 32,000 people. Signs indicating whether or not the water is safe to drink were placed on more than 60 sources. At the same time, the number of people who were sensitised and educated was greatly increased.

Gains in terms of time and energy
Easier access to drinking water and sanitation facilities is beginning to change the living conditions of people in rural areas of Haiti. The supply systems are providing them with water throughout the year, which was practically out of the question before, especially during the dry season.
For women, who are traditionally responsible for collecting water, this means considerable savings in terms of time and energy. Fetching water on foot or on donkey-back could take several hours a day. Thanks to the new infrastructure they can now invest the time they save in an activity that brings income. And children benefit too, since they often had to help their mother and thus missed school.

Gaining a better understanding of hygiene
The intensive efforts aimed at sensitising the population to the principles of hygiene are beginning to bear fruit. People are becoming more aware of the value of clean water. The majority now make the connection between clean drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and health. The 2010 cholera epidemic helped people understand how important clean water is for their health. Through the proper treatment of unsafe water, it is possible to prevent cholera and numerous other diseases.

Water has its price
Changes in behaviour have been observed following the introduction of payment for water. Most people understand that paying for water guarantees the smooth function of the supply system. Paying for water also means that people use it more carefully and place higher demands on the quality of the supply service.

Gateway for development of local governance
For many years, political instability rendered effective and efficient water management impossible. This led to a rapid deterioration of the existing infrastructure and sources of financing. Since the end of 2006, the government of Haiti has been actively committed to a reform process in the water management sector. In 2009, it established a National Authority for Safe Water and Sanitation for the purpose of formulating regulations and standards relating to water quality and supporting the associated decentralised entities. New legislation has been introduced which calls for the gradual decentralisation of public services to entities at the local level. Thus the water management sector constitutes a genuine gateway for the development of local governance.