Part 1: too many broken wells

Hauling water from the river to his home in La Kabouy.

Only a few weeks ago, I returned home from my first trip to Haiti. Like you, over the past year, I have seen how Haiti just can’t seem to catch a break – the earthquake, cholera, and now, elections with no particular promise. I was unsure what being there would be like.

But it was one of my best international trips yet. Mainly because of the laid back, enjoyable group I was with and the time we spent with Haiti Outreach (HO),’s certified local partner. We were in and around Pignon, a rural area in the north, where our projects are located.

HO took us to three communities with broken wells from programs with other organizations. These communities — Savann Tabak, Fonten, and La Kabouy —just organized themselves to do what they can to get them fixed. This involves steps such as forming a water committee, writing a letter to request assistance from HO (first submitted to their mayor), and then meeting with HO to determine next steps.

People in Fonten collect their water in this dirty creek. It was a long, hot walk to get there.

A graveyard of dead wells

Historically, the water sector has a pretty embarrassing track record with water projects. I’ve heard it said that the developing world is a graveyard of broken wells.

In 2009 it was estimated that 50,000 wells were broken down in Africa alone. Report author Jamie Kinner of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development also estimated that $300 million has been wasted in attempts to bring people clean water.

What’s the deal? Is it simply that long-term safe water access hasn’t been the main focus? Perhaps a technology was used that the local people couldn’t fix due to lack of skills, knowledge, or the proper parts? Perhaps many groups have never thought through some of these things? Is anyone monitoring and evaluating these projects? Do donors know their money has been wasted? Who is talking about this problem?

– Erin Swanson, Communications & New Media Coordinator


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