Haiti enters 2022 struggling with cost of living increases, lack of drinking water

The Haitian people face a rise in cost of living and including basic necessities, fuel shortages, and lack of access to drinking water

January 06, 2022 by Haitian Popular News Agency
Haitians face a crisis of potable water and cost of living

For the Haitian people, 2021 ends with a rise in cost of living and including basic necessities, fuel shortages, and lack of access to drinking water. The Haitian Institute of Statistics and Informatics announced at the end of December that the cost of living was 24.6% higher than in November, and could worsen given the rise in oil prices and the ongoing fuel crisis.

The last change to the minimum wage was made by the late President Jovenel Moïse in 2019 and remains frozen at a maximum of 500 Gourdes for 8 hours of work in certain industries, less for others. This remains in effect today, despite the rise in the cost of living. After the increase in fuel prices, no tariff was established for the different collective and selective transports, causing an excessive increase in the prices of basic necessities.

Inflation is another direct reason for the increase in the cost of living, aggravated since last August’s earthquake, as well as the persistent fuel crisis that impacts all economic sectors which rely on this commodity.

Another reason is the decline of the country’s GDP of 3.3% in the fiscal year 2020-2021 and by another 1.8% by the close of 2021.

As a result, working families are surviving in increasingly precarious and insecure conditions, and in the case of workers in the formal sector, they face the loss of the value of their wages.

3.3 million people with no access to safe drinking water

As UNICEF has warned, in Haiti 3.3 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. An estimated 540,000 Haitians could suffer from diseases transmitted by unsafe water, such as acute respiratory diseases, diarrhea, cholera and malaria. The situation is even worse for women, children and adolescents who have been displaced by the violence and who have no basic hygiene facilities where they can take refuge, who now also face a shortage of drinking water.

Data shows that since 2019, only 12% of the Haitian population has access to drinking water in their homes. The situation is worse in rural areas, poor neighborhoods and for vulnerable groups such as those displaced by violence.

The most recent earthquake in August resulted in the death of 2,248 people, 12,763 wounded, and 329 missing. 130,000 buildings were demolished, and more than 80 aqueducts and water systems were destroyed in the southern region of the island alone, meaning that 60% of families in Nippes and Grand Anse lost access to drinking water. According to UNICEF, 81,000 Haitians lost access to safe drinking water as a result of the earthquake.

Haitians with no source of drinking water are forced to buy water at the rate of 20 Gourdes per container, or 3 for 50 Gourdes. This poses a significant problem for Haitians in the face of an increase in the cost of living.

Yet while Haitians suffer from the shortage, private companies extract water illegally from central aquifers.

The Haitian Directorate of Potable Water and Sanitation (DINEPA)—the government agency responsible for drinking water—does not deliver water to the majority of the most populous neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. DINEPA claims that due to the fuel crisis, it is too difficult to fuel the water pumping stations, as in the case in the municipalities of Delmas, Tabarre and Cité Soleil, which stopped receiving a supply of water from the government. Meanwhile, according to an investigation, private companies are able to extract water illegally, without extraction permits. When authorities acknowledged that they do not keep records of the amount of water these companies capture on a daily basis, they could not even provide the names of the companies registered for legal extraction.

As a result, instead of receiving public services, more than a million and a half people in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince depend on the purchase of water from private entrepreneurs who extract water from Cul-de-sac, the main aquifer that supplies the region, who extract water without any monitoring or quality control, and then sell it at a cost inaccessible to many.

According to the United Nations Resolution 64/292, all people have “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”.

Translated and adapted by Natalia Marques.