Wòch Nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti

Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, Washington DC, USA.
Health and Human Rights 01/2008; 10(2):67-89. DOI: 10.2307/20460104
Source: PubMed


This article combines health and water research results, evidence from confidential documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, legal analysis, and discussion of historical context to demonstrate that actions taken by the international community through the Inter-American Development Bank are directly related to a lack of access to clean water in Haiti. The article demonstrates that these actions constitute a clear violation of Haitians' right to water under both domestic and international law. The article exposes the United States governments role in blocking the disbursal of millions of dollars in international bank loans that would have had life-saving consequences for the Haitian people. The loans were derailed in 2001 by politically-motivated interventions on behalf of the US and other members of the international community in direct violation of the Inter-American Development Bank charter. To demonstrate the impact of these interventions, the article presents data gathered in a study that employed human rights and public health methodologies to assess the right to water in Haiti. The data reveal that Haitians experience obstacles concerning every aspect of the right to water: diffculties with water availability, limited physical and economic accessibility, and poor water quality. The article provides a framework of concrete duties and obligations that should be followed by all actors involved in Haiti in order to realize Haitians' human right to water. In response to the undeniable link between the international community's political interference and the intolerably poor state of potable water in Haiti, the article concludes with a recommendation that all actors in Haiti follow a rights-based approach to the development and implementation of water projects in Haiti. The full report of Wòch nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti is available online at

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    • "The median well is subscribed to by 64 percent of its community's households, and 47 and 97 percent of households in the community subscribe to the 10th and 90th percentile wells, respectively. It is difficult to gauge how these communities compare to most rural communities in Haiti, but one recent survey estimated that only 27 percent of the population in an urban area had access to water from an improved source (Varma et al. (2009)), and the World Bank estimates this to be true of 49 percent of the population in rural areas of the country (World Bank (2010b)). "
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    ABSTRACT: The international community has pledged $11 billion to Haiti, a country where nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) provide nearly all public goods and services. This paper addresses two questions about these NGOs: How can they most effectively perform their own work, and how can they integrate their programs into broader efforts organized by public institutions? I evaluate the community-based model of Haiti Outreach (HO), which trains communities to manage wells after they have been constructed. The effect of this training is identified by comparing the outcomes of HO’s wells with a control group of wells that were refurbished by HO but then managed by other groups. Wells managed under the community-based approach are 8.7 percentage points more likely to be functioning after one year. I also propose a social planner’s problem to quantify the tradeoff between equity and efficiency created by user fees that may be applied to many development programs. A social planner indifferent between standard and community-based interventions has strong preferences for sporadically providing water to the poorest members of a community at the expense of sustainably providing water to the majority of community members. Policymakers deciding between alternative interventions should also give consideration to the community-based approach for its ability to build political institutions.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2012
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    • "The blockade of these social sector loans affected a wide variety projects aimed to build basic infrastructure, such as public water systems, and to provide basic services to the Haitian people. In both the privatization of water services due to loan conditions, and lack of investment in a public system resulting from a burden of debt, the people of Haiti have long been denied their fundamental right to water.26 "
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    ABSTRACT: Months after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, over one million remain homeless and living in spontaneous internally displaced person (IDP) camps. Billions of dollars from aid organizations and government agencies have been pledged toward the relief effort, yet many basic human needs, including food, shelter, and sanitation, continue to be unmet. The Sphere Project, "Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response," identifies the minimum standards to be attained in disaster response. From a human rights perspective and utilizing key indicators from the Sphere Project as benchmarks, this article reports on an assessment of the living conditions approximately 12 weeks after the earthquake in Parc Jean Marie Vincent, a spontaneous IDP camp in Port-au-Prince. A stratified random sample of households in the camp, proportionate to the number of families living in each sector, was selected. Interview questions were designed to serve as "key indicators" for the Sphere Project minimum standards. A total of 486 interviews were completed, representing approximately 5% of households in each of the five sectors of the camp. Our assessment identified the relative achievements and shortcomings in the provision of relief services in Parc Jean Marie Vincent. At the time of this survey, the Sphere Project minimum standards for access to health care and quantity of water per person per day were being met. Food, shelter, sanitation, and security were below minimum accepted standard and of major concern. The formal assessment reported here was completed by September 2010, and is necessarily limited to conditions in Haiti before the cholera outbreak in October.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2010 · Health and Human Rights
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    ABSTRACT: This joint statement argues for a comprehensive, integrated cholera response in Haiti. The cholera epidemic in Haiti is particularly devastating because of the vulnerability of Haiti's population after the January 12, 2010, earthquake, the long-standing weakness of its health, water, and sanitation systems, and the observed virulence of the El Tor hybrid strain. From October 19, 2010-when the first cases were confirmed in the National Public Health Laboratory-to April 4, 2011, 274,418 cases of cholera and 4,787 deaths related to cholera had been reported across all ten departments of Haiti [1]. The Haitian Ministere de la Sante Publique et de la Population (MSPP, the Ministry of Health) and the Direction Nationale de l'Eau Potable et de l'Assainissement (DINEPA, the government body charged with water and sanitation) have, with the support of many nongovernmental and international groups, made great strides against cholera. Case-fatality rates have dropped to 2.1% from 7% at the outset of the epidemic (and up to 10% in certain regions); incidence has also declined across Haiti, according to recent reports [1]. But fewer cases in the dry season (November-April) should not lead to complacency: seasonal variation is expected in epidemics of waterborne disease. Some have raised doubts about the sustainability of free water distribution within internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. But we believe that such efforts are an essential service that has contributed to the relatively few cases of cholera in the camps (as compared to other urban and rural areas). Given the likelihood of case resurgence and endemicity of cholera in Haiti, this document argues for a comprehensive, integrated strategy for cholera prevention and care in Haiti. We must reduce suffering and preventable death in the short term, and we must build effective water, sanitation, and health delivery infrastructure to fortify Haiti against cholera and other diseases of poverty in the long term. The document identifies three principal goals. First, we must continue aggressive case finding and scale up treatment efforts, including oral rehydration therapy, intravenous rehydration, antibiotic therapy (for moderate and severe cases), and complementary supplementation with zinc and vitamin A. Second, we must shore up Haiti's water infrastructure by building systems for consistent chlorination and filtration at public water sources and by distributing point-of-use water purification technologies. We must also strengthen sanitation infrastructure by improving and expanding waste management facilities (such as sewage systems and latrines) and waste monitoring. Third, we must link prevention to care by bolstering surveillance, education campaigns (about hand-washing, for example), and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) efforts. Prevention must also include advocacy for scaled-up production of cholera vaccine and the development of a vaccine strategy for Haiti. A vaccination campaign should be implemented if adequate vaccine and resources can be mobilized without undermining efforts to treat acutely ill patients or strengthen water and sanitation infrastructure. This document identifies key challenges and outlines the components of a comprehensive cholera response to aid medical and public health practitioners in Haiti and elsewhere. With leadership from the Haitian government, we must work together to bolster responses to the acute problem of cholera today and strengthen Haiti's health, water, and sanitation infrastructure to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.
    Full-text · Article · May 2011 · PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
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