Frontline World

HAITI - The Struggle for Water, October 2004
a FRONTLINE/World Fellows project

Haiti: The Struggle for Water
The CommunityThe FamilyThe Water TrucksThe Street SellersThe HospitalThe Vodou Ceremony
IntroductionMore Info On The EnvironmentMore Info On The Water SystemReact
Man walking into flodded street; Boy holding water bottle on his head; Dry barren landscape


Born and raised in British Columbia, Canada, Shoshana Guy received her masters' degree from Columbia School of Journalism in 2003. She now works for NBC news as an assistant producer.
In Haiti, the death toll from Hurricane Jeanne is more than 3,000 souls. Too much water -- and too little -- is the bane of this nation of 8 million, which shares an island with the Dominican Republic. The recent storm left 200,000 people in Gonaiöves, Haiti's third-largest city, without food or shelter and has contaminated already-scarce water supplies.

Even when they are not enduring a natural disaster, for most Haitians getting water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning and bathing is a daily struggle. Children as young as 4 years old strain to hoist small containers of water as they trail behind their older sisters who walk in gaggles up steep hills and down long stretches of road, their heavier buckets balanced on their heads. Women wash clothes in the tiniest trickles running through dirty canals, and sit in precious slow-running mountain streams to bathe. All over the island, wherever I looked, people were searching, hustling, even begging for the water they needed.

More than 60 percent of Haitians do not have access to clean water. The country is ranked last on the International Water Poverty Index, and continued political instability has only made the situation worse. In February 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, was forced from power. Aristide's departure, brokered by American diplomats, caused an outbreak of violence and looting. U.S. forces eventually intervened.

Haiti and the United States have a long and troubled history -- from the U.S. Marine Corps occupation of Haiti in 1915 through Washington's long-standing support of the dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Then the United States supported Aristide as a reformer and helped him return to power in 1994, only to abandon him in 2004.

The country's interim government, led by Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, is focused on maintaining security and obtaining international donations to rebuild Haiti's economy. Yet most long-term solutions that might alleviate Haiti's poverty and water crisis cannot be initiated until after the elections scheduled for 2005.

In July 2004, I spent three weeks in Haiti reporting on water. With various translators in tow, I walked the streets of Port-au-Prince, hiked mountain trails, bumped over washed-out roads, and visited hospitals and slums. I spoke with environmentalists and impoverished mothers, big business owners and boys hawking goods in the streets; always looking for water.

more info on the environment
more info on the water system


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Read a discussion about Haiti with FRONTLINE/World Fellow Shoshana Guy on
FRONTLINE/World Fellows
Part of the Web-exclusive FRONTLINE/World Fellowship program. FRONTLINE/World is exploring partnerships with some of the leading graduate schools of journalism around the United States with the goal of identifying and developing the best of an emerging generation of journalists. The FRONTLINE/World Fellowship program is supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Read more about the program.

"Haiti: The Struggle for Water" words, photographs and video by Shoshana Guy. Additional photographs contributed by Michael Kamber.