As we mark another World Water Day, the statistics remain astounding; globally, 768 million people do not have an adequate source of drinking water and 2.5 billion people do not have adequate sanitation. Among those are 4 million Haitians who lack access to clean water and 8 million who lack improved sanitation. Haiti is considered the poorest country in our hemisphere – in our own backyard.
Our parent company, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT, has been lending support to Haiti for nearly a decade through Aquassistance, an NGO that offers assistance to disadvantaged populations and is also positioned to respond to major natural disasters. United Water employees joined members of the group and the Haitian National Water Authority (DINEPA) in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake in 2010 to help with the stabilization and improvement of the municipal water system.
When our CEO, Bertrand Camus, visited Port-au-Prince in 2013, he committed to lending additional United Water expertise to position Haiti for a sustainable future. Subsequently, a North American branch of Aquassistance was launched to streamline technical missions to Haiti and other areas that face water and sanitation difficulties.
In the months to follow, volunteers from United Water joined Aquassistance to lead a project in Milot, in northern Haiti, where the Sacré Coeur Hospital water supply had become contaminated with E-coli. The project to replace the existing treatment system, train local operators to run the water system and identify opportunities to expand the treated water distribution network, is done in partnership with Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, NJ.
Our team found that the water treatment system supplying the hospital had been improperly installed and maintained. They recommended abandoning the solar-powered water treatment unit because its maintenance could not be guaranteed. To supplement, a plan was developed for changing the disinfection protocol for the hospital. Ultimately, local operators will be trained to run the water system and perform periodic inspections of its operation.
The Aquassistance team didn’t stop there. They’re now developing a plan to expand the distribution system for the treated water, from the hospital to the surrounding village.
On this World Water Day, we at United Water are grateful not only for what we have, but also for a company that allows us the flexibility to pay our expertise and goodwill forward to those in need.