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Red Cross Helping Haiti Deliver Water

The Red Cross has announced plans to spend millions of dollars to help the Haitian authorities increase their capacity to deliver water to people still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.

The effort will bolster the Haitian economy and build the capacity of Haitians to deliver basic services to the population.

For many months, the global Red Cross network has been trucking clean drinking water to the makeshift camps where earthquake survivors are living. Led by the Haitian Red Cross, the global Red Cross network provided clean water each day to more than 300,000 people – more than 660,000 gallons – at the peak of its operations and provided sanitation facilities such as latrines for more than 400,000 people. Currently, the Red Cross is providing water to about 100,000 people per day.

Throughout the next four to six months the Haitian Red Cross, supported by the American Red Cross and others within the global network, will provide technical, material and financial support to Haiti’s National Directorate for Water and Sanitation (known locally as Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement, or DINEPA), the government water and sanitation agency.

With the new agreement, the Red Cross will provide 15 water trucks and three desludging trucks. It will also support the Haitian agency with financial support and training. The effort will include supporting the building of community-managed water kiosks in neighborhoods which are currently not connected to piped water supply.

“I am proud of the role the Red Cross has played in providing free, safe, drinking water during the extended emergency phase, particularly following the cholera outbreak,” said Ricardo Caivano, head of the American Red Cross delegation in Haiti. “But we have always been aware of the need to transition these services to the authorities, to communities, to water committees and to private vendors. We are delighted to be transitioning these services back to these groups, recognizing their knowledge and experience makes them best placed to serve the needs of the Haitian population.”

As of July 1, the American Red Cross had spent or signed contracts to spend more than $45 million for water and sanitation projects in Haiti. Of this, more than $15 million has gone to its Red Cross partners to support water and sanitation projects, including capacity-building for the Haitian water authority.

The American Red Cross, working with DINEPA and other partners, is planning other water and sanitation services in neighborhoods in and around Port-au-Prince as part of its permanent housing program.

Based on surveys of the local population, as well as Haitian companies in the water business, the Red Cross concluded that a gradual transition of water services will be a useful way to support economic recovery in Haiti. Among other findings, many Haitian reservoir operators said the free water distribution poses a competitive challenge to their businesses.

In response, the Red Cross has been working with local communities and water providers to see how they can help people develop their water businesses.

One of those who will be impacted by the gradual transition is Jean-Norbert Printemps, a community water guardian who lives in Cazeau, Port au Prince.

“After the earthquake there was no water here, so I contacted Red Cross so the people could have water,” he said.

The Red Cross responded to the request and has delivered free water to his neighborhood every day since then. Now, as part of the Red Cross strategy to transition services to local communities and the authorities, a permanent tank is being fitted in the area. Printemps will continue to oversee his community’s water needs, but he will buy and sell the water he provides. During the transition period, the Red Cross will deliver water free of charge for a limited time to allow community water vendors like Printemps to establish their businesses and collect the funds needed to sustain them.

“Depending on the cost of water from the truck, I can sell it at three gourdes (about 7.5 cents) per bucket,” said Printemps. “I used to be a water guardian when Red Cross delivered free water to the community. I liked that. The population depended on me for safe water. I felt responsible for helping them, and I want to continue helping.”

In a separate announcement, the International Committee for the Red Cross said this week it is working on further repairs to water systems in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Cite Soleil to improve water access to some 200,000 residents of the area.