The lack of adequate safe (potable) water supplies for basic human needs is a significant problem throughout Haiti, although surface and ground water resources are abundant. This situation leads to increased competition for limited resources. Several of the main reasons for this situation are:
- uneven rainfall distribution;
- degradation of the watersheds caused by deforestation;
- rapid growth in urban areas with demand beyond capacity;
- poor distribution networks;
- poor water resources management;
- no single agency responsible for management of water ;
- lack of adequate data needed to make informed decisions;
- poor irrigation supply network leading to underdevelopment;
- lack of wastewater treatment and solid waste disposal.
Most of the streams are relatively small and less than 100 kilometers long. With each passing year, the rivers and streams flow more like torrents and less like stable permanent rivers. The largest natural lake in the country is Étang Saumâtre has no outlet, and contains brackish water. Many of the smaller natural lakes that exist throughout the country also contain brackish water.
About 54 percent of the population lives in abject poverty. Based on 1997 estimates, the unemployment rate in a work force of approximately 3.6 million is about 38 percent.
Only 61.7% of the population have jobs but these are the working poor as many make only $3.10 per day. Women are least likely to go to school or have a job. Violence against women is common with 22.8% of women reporting abuse – what of the abuse that goes unreported? Of course the issue of “restavek” children or child slavery persists despite national and international laws. It is a socially accepted norm to sell children ages 5-15 and to make then work for no pay, to deny them the opportunity to attend school and results in children being abused both physically and sexually.
In Cite Soleil – the largest slum in Haiti is 3 square miles and has about 200-300,000 people. Most are unemployed and the vast majority are children. In Haiti 65% of the people are under 25 years old. The children live in extreme hunger and are exposed to gang violence, high risk for HIV/AIDS, no opportunity for an education, no sewer system and rat infestations. On average – nine people live in one shack.
Most people who live in the slums state their biggest fear is violence – especially for women and girls (Haugen and Boutros, 2014). In the slums, this problem is rampant; acts of violence are intentionally hidden, legal protection is non-existent and violence keeps the poor from ever escaping poverty.
Water supply for Port-au-Prince, the most populated area in Haiti, is poor. In 1995 only about 35 percent of the nearly 2.5 million inhabitants had access to the water system. Most receive water only twice a week. The lack of service is attributed to
- system losses associated with the age of the distribution system and theft of service, estimated at 60 percent;
- interruptions in the power supply to the wells and pumps; and
- contamination of water sources.