Haitian life

by on February 10, 2004 at 6:01 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

Haiti remains mired in possible civil war, but this was not the most depressing Haitian news story of the day. The Washington Post reports on water supplies in Haiti:

…three times a day, she [a mother] fills a five-gallon tub, balances it on her head and walks steadily and gracefully back up to her one-room house, careful not to spill a drop. The water may not be safe to drink, but it is precious.

She said she has no alternative to drinking tainted water, which kills thousands of people in Haiti every year. This is her test for the daily water: “If it is clean, nothing will happen. When the water is not clean, my children get diarrhea.”

It is a risk that millions of Haitians must take each day. Although there has been a public campaign to teach people how to drop a small quantity of bleach into their buckets to purify the water by chlorinating it, no one has been able to instruct families on what to do if they have no money to buy the bleach. So some Haitians decide on their own. “Sometimes,” Zilice said, “I use lemon.”

“When we see the doctor, the doctor will say, ‘Take precautions for the water. Put Clorox so you can drink it,’ ” she said. But when there is no bleach, she said her children sometimes become sick with fever. That is when she boils the water if she can. Boiling water is a luxury for the rich. “I don’t always have money to buy charcoal or gas to boil the water,” she said. “I know it is a risk but I have no choice.”

Or how about this?

“Sometimes you see small children go at 5 in the morning to get water before classes. If they do not walk for water they die.”

Sixty percent of Haiti’s 8.5 million people do not have clean drinking water. It puts this whole RSVP business into perspective.

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