Sabotage Leaves Haitian City of Gonaives Without Municipal Water


English | French

Editorial comment

It is imperative that Haitian health authorities check the quality of all drinking water: especially bottled water.

Soon after Haiti’s cholera epidemic, I suggested that the extremely rapid spread of the disease throughout all the country’s Departments might have been due to a distribution of untreated Artibonite River water as purified water. Indeed, a number of individuals who got cholera insisted that they had only drunk bottled water. The health emergency and confusion of the epidemic prevented a careful analysis of the sources of drinking water in the cholera-afflicted areas of Haiti during Fall 2010.  Since then, however, in Zimbabwe 40 water bottling companies have been banned because they were discovered to be selling water that was unsafe to drink.

By contrast to Zimbabwe, in Haiti bottled water is still unregulated by the health authorities. Consequently, the more Haitians come to depend on bottled water for their supply of drinking water, the more they expose themselves to the ingestion of batches of water that might be contaminated with harmful bacteria, and the more vulnerable Haiti becomes to flares of epidemics like cholera.

As suggested by the savage beating last December of three young Haitians by UN troops imediately after they delivered potable water to Cite Soleil, and by the nearly simultaneously sabotage of the Gonaives pumping stations described below, in Haiti all water is being made unavailable except for bottled water. This poses a grave danger to health.

Dady Chery, Editor
Haiti Chery

By Mergenat Exalus

Translated from the French by Dady Chery, Haiti Chery

Gonaives, Haiti – Serious difficulties in obtaining the services of the Office of Regional Water Supply and Sanitation (OREPA) are being felt by the residents of almost all areas of the city of Gonaives (North) since early 2012, according to the testimony of local residents who are calling on the authorities to assume their responsibility.

Water, this very precious liquid, is not flowing from the taps of gonaïviens’ homes due to acts of sabotage in December 2011 on three out of five pumping stations of the National Water Supply and Sanitation (DINEPA) installed in Châtelain (northeast of the city).

On this occasion, the saboteurs, who could not be identified, carried off a control panel, a switch for distributing current, and over 1,500 feet of electric cable that previously linked Electricity of Haiti (EDH) to the system of pumping stations.

Neighborhoods such as Gattereau, Bienac, K-soleil, Detour Laborde, that depend exclusively on the services of OREPA are those most affected by this water shortage.

Residents of these neighborhoods told AlterPresse that they are having extraordinary difficulties meeting basic daily needs like showering, cooking and laundry.

Artesian wells remain a way out for some. The drilling of a well of this type costs an average of 15,000 to 20,000 gourdes (US $1 is about 40 gourdes).

But well water does not have the confidence of residents, particularly with regard to its potability. Water purified by reverse “osmosis” and sold in shops is preferred. This type of trade, which is beyond the control of health authorities, has greatly expanded in this City of the Independence.

Drinking water has become a real issue and a challenge since the cholera, a disease that spread dramatically during fall 2010 in the city of Gonaives. This water scarcity occurs in the context of a drop in the epidemic and while the first rains of the year are raising fears of outbreaks.

Contacted by AlterPresse on this issue, engineer Jude Pierre, who is in charge of recovery techniques (Chr) said steps are underway in Gonaives to address the problem. Pierre did not say much about when things would get sorted out and whether the measures would have lasting effects.

He said that everything depends on whether those in charge of DINEPA in the capital launch a tender to find a company that can repair the system that was sabotaged and vandalized in December 2011.

OREPA has been the subject of strong criticism from Gonaiviens since its installation in the region to replace the National Drinking Water Service (SNEP).

In 2004 and 2008, the passage of several hurricanes severely damaged Gonaives’ water supply system.

Source:  AlterPresse (French) | Haiti Chery (English)


April 25 (HPN), DINEPA declares that it is ready to start to repair the network for the distribution of water to Gonaives.

May 14 (AlterPresse), Fifteen new cases of people infected with cholera were brought to the Gonaives (North) treatment center (CTC in just one day, on May 10. On May 11, six new cases were added, according to Mireille Sahel, the nurse in charge of the CTC. The two tents housing the CTC in Gonaives are fully occupied with 36 people including 2 children under five years old and 6 less than ten years old. Twelve of the 15 nurses at the CTC have not been paid for four months.

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