As a result of our medical mission trips, Helping Hugs, Inc., for Haiti identified that many of the illnesses to women and children can be traced to the lack of clean water. Therefore, Helping Hugs initiated “Clean Water” projects to help improve the health and hygiene of the people of Côtes-de-Fer.
CLEAN WATER Projects
Like most of Haiti, the people of Cotes-de-Fur and our surrounding communities suffer from lack of water, electricity, and affordable health care. Water is basic to life. For those in Haiti it is a daily struggle to first find a source of water and then haul that water back to their home. For many, that source of water is the nearest stream or river. That task is generally assigned to the oldest child. For others it may be rain water collected in a bowl at home. From time to time, Haiti will experience severe drought leaving the streams and rivers dry. Haiti normally has a wet and a dry season. During the dry season, once all the water collected is gone, things become desperate. People will collect water anywhere, knowing it is not safe.
Water from streams and rivers is usually cloudy, smells and has a foul taste. This results in many illnesses that are not common in the US. Water borne diseases are a major health issue in Haiti. Many areas of Haiti experience Cholera outbreaks. E. coli, Typhoid and Hepatitis are also common. Since medical care is generally not available, people suffer, some even die. The water program keeps people from getting sick in the first place.
The Water program began in 2016, when a three-stage filter system was installed to treat the non-potable water, supplied by the government, to St. Joseph Parish and the community of Cotes-de-Fer. The system eliminated particulate, odor and bacteria from the water. Clean, safe water was now available to the school, rectory and community.
A similar system was installed in Mayette in 2018.
Our mountain communities do not have access to government water, so they rely on contaminated rivers and streams for their water. Helping Hugs, Inc. for Haiti supports schools in St Anthony and Platon.
Access to those communities is by two wheeled vehicle or burro only. In 2018, a Lifestraw Community filter system was purchased for each school. This 30-gallon vessel filters dirty water, brought to school by students, through hollow fiber membranes removing contaminants and bacteria.
During the rainy season, Haitians set containers to catch the rainwater. This helps dramatically but is soon gone after the rain stops. Starting in 2019, two community rainwater cisterns were built at Sacred Heart chapel, Platon and St Lawrence chapel, Boukan Moran. A reservoir was built and the chapel roof was used to collect rainwater which was filtered before going in to the reservoir. The water is distributed after the rainy season when the collected water is gone.
While the cisterns provide water for a period of time, for much of the year the communities must rely on rivers and streams. In 2020, Father Islaire suggested we consider drilling wells to provide clean water year-round. With the assistance of Water For Life, a Haitian nonprofit, and the participation of the members of the community, the first, solar powered, well was completed in April 2021 at Mont Blanc providing clean, safe water to about 500 families. A second well, about the same size, was completed in April 2022 in Boukan Moran. Four more communities still require wells.
A WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program was initiated in Cotes-de-Fer when the first filter system was installed. This is a United Nations developed program that teaches children hand washing and sanitation practices. This method is taught annually in our schools and in each community as a clean water project is completed. Education as well as clean water is needed to ward off illness.