Gelting, Richard; Bliss, Katherine; Patrick, Molly; Lockhart, Gabriella; Handzel, Thomas; Oct 9, 2013. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Haiti: Past, Present, and Future. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 89(4): 665-670.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Alex Caven makes this connection here…

The UN Environmental Program’s of 2014 reports, “Over half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied with people suffering from illnesses linked with contaminated water, and more people die as a result of polluted water than are killed by all forms of violence including wars.”

The article entitled, “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Haiti: Past, Present, and Future” was published by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on October 9th, 2013 by Gelting et. al. This article describes the lack of sanitation and accessed to clean or improved water sources and the subsequent water-borne illness, specifically cholera, in Haiti. According to their findings, “Haiti is the most underserved country in the western hemisphere in terms of water and sanitation infrastructure by a wide margin; only 69% of the population has access to an improved water source and 17% had access to improved sanitation facilities in 2010.”  With the these problems recently having been exacerbated by the earthquake in 2010, many Haitians have little to no access to clean water or sanitation, particularly outside of urban areas.

Within Port-au-Prince, a population of 3 million people has no sewers. Instead, there are open channels next to the main roads into which people dump their sewage. Otherwise, people defecate directly in the Ocean, rivers, or other bodies of water (Knox, 2012). This lack of sanitation has led to perpetuation of myriad water-borne illnesses such as cholera, typhoid, and chronic diarrhea, which lead to more than half the deaths in the country every year (Sentlinger). It is estimated that it would take $2.2 billion U.S. to eradicate cholera from Haiti over the next 10 years.

In 2009, the Haitian parliament developed a regulatory group: the National Directorate for Potable Water and Sanitation (DINEPA) to which the U.S. has donated $300 million dollars. DINEPAs action plan contains goals to increase investment and infrastructure and to reform current institutional operations. There are also many smaller but equally as important (and probably more effective) projects such as the implementation of EcoSan toilets in Haiti. This provides people with the opportunity to use a private bathroom rather than having to go in a public place. This is an issue that affects the health of the local populations in serious ways, but also affects their dignity. This is an issue that requires and deserves much more attention than it has had over the past 200 years. It is something that we should all be aware of, especially given our lavish and even excessive lifestyle in the United States.


Corcoran, E., Nellemann, E., Baker, R. Bos, D. Osborn, H. Savelli (eds). 2010. Sick Water? The Central role of waste-water management in sustainable development. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Knox, Richard. April 13th, 2012. Port-Au-Prince: A City Of Millions, With No Sewer System. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Sentlinger, Katherine. Water In Crisis – Haiti. Accessed January 14, 2015.

UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water. 2014 report. Investing in Water and Sanitation. World Health Organization. Accessed January 14, 2015.