Frontline World


Haiti, The Struggle for Water



FRONTLINE/World ultimately aims to create an online community where citizens, journalists and experts from around the world can post comments and engage in a thoughtful, lively dialogue. We invite you to email a comment. Please note that emails selected for posting may be edited for length, clarity and fairness.

Frantz Mehu - Jacksonville, Florida
I am Haitian and currently serving in the U.S. Navy. Well, I have been living in the U.S. for 5 years and during these 5 years; I have frequently traveled to Haiti. I am growing up experiencing and living still Haiti's primitive way of life. As Jean-Claude Duvalier's regime was ousted in 1986, I was 14 years old. I did not have any political experience but I can remember how things were at that time just as much as I can now for my age. Life in Haiti had nothing at all to criticize at that time compared to the awful inhuman, and desperate situation that this nation has been living daily since the complete destruction of what Duvalier left. Before 1990, Haiti had some of its infrastructure left and Haitians were still proud to live, only to be quickly and completely destroyed. Which made this part of the Island a desert.

Therefore, I have two questions for the United States, which is not even 500 miles off the northern coast of Haiti. Why, as a great and powerful nation capable of doing anything, does it allow the Haitian government to destroy, enslave, and zombify a nation through corruption and pocketing the country's money? Why does the United States never sincerely decide to help Haiti by imposing the government to do what is essential for this nation? You can do it, if you are willing to. Oh yeah, a government has just been ousted because the United States wanted it to happen and then that was it. So why not continue helping in other ways?

The United Nations has a major part to play in Haiti's 15 terrible years of unsteady political experiences. Why is Haiti as a member of this union -- with its people left mourning for international assistance -- suffering from hunger, killing each other, living in the most tragic situation that could exist?

It is a nation without education, food, potable water, electricity, hope, health, infrastructure, which are the daily needs of living. Haiti has nothing at all. It is sad.

Armand Midelson - Pétion-Ville, Haiti
I'm very happy about the wonderful report Shoshana has done in Haiti. We expected feedback but nobody has contacted us yet. Once again, thank you for your input.


Matt Salomon - Gering, Nebraska
It amazes me how primitive and chaotic the water situation is in Haiti. It angers me that we are forced to pour so much money into Iraq when our nearby neighbors need just a small amount to have normal lives. Not only would it help the people of Haiti, but it would also reduce the waves of illegal immigrants the U.S. must deal with each year. A small investment of foreign aid would produce a great return.

Maureen Sandles - Flower Mound, Texas
Thank you so much for your article on Haiti. I wish the media would do more coverage on Haiti and the devastation that its people endure so that others would be more aware of what is going on there.


Anne Acco - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The water molecule is a precious gift. Haiti has to grow trees and bushes mixed with fleshy plants on its hillsides. Nothing should stop the work. Water has to be a universal guide to our well being ---- a human right as an accessible commodity. America is not a leader here. But Americans can learn how water works in their lives. I hate to think we have become so right wing and greedy that we start threatening the whole planet in a plundering manner. Someday we may have stacks of money in bank vaults but we will not be able to buy the things that keep us alive. We can no longer take anything for granted.

Richard Lubke - Flowermound, Texas
Thank you for the story on Haiti. We as a country and individuals need to do more for people that cannot do for themselves. They are a good people that with a little help can become productive again.

FRONTLINE/World Responds:
A number of people have written to us asking how they can help with the situation in Haiti. While FRONTLINE/World does not have relationships with particular humanitarian relief organizations and cannot vouch for them specifically, we'd like to answer your question. We suggest that you explore the following organizations, recommended by individuals on the ground in Haiti:

Concern Worldwide, an organization which responds to humanitarian emergencies in Haiti - including the water crisis.

Konbit Sante, an organization devoted to building a sustainable heath care system in the Cap-Haitien community.

Or you can reach the Association Development Community Pernier (ADCP), which is working to restore a water system in Pernier, at

Anonymous - Lewisville, Texas
Sincere thanks goes to you for bringing attention to the tragic conditions in Haiti. I have witnessed first hand the many blessings and obstacles that this forgotten country faces day after day. While their situation is undeniably desperate, their hearts are hopeful despite having no relevant knowledge of comfort, security, or democracy. Truly a fantastic story! Keep up the great work!

Kirk Peterson - Flowermound, Texas
I too recently returned from Haiti on a medical mission trip. The country is certainly in desperate need of outside support. Great job on raising this issue. Hopefully, you continue to provide news stories such as this one so as to continue to remind the public of Haiti's need for help and support. Thanks.

Anonymous - Petionville, Haiti
I live and work in Haiti and want to compliment you on the excellent portrayal of Haitian reality. Your reporter was a very courageous woman.

Dave Hansen - Irene, South Dakota
I have taken mission teams to Haiti for each of the last 15 years and can confirm the accuracy of this article. Such poverty in Haiti and yet the people have such faith. Every American should go to Haiti and then realize how good we have it here. Then each American should decide how they will help our brothers and sisters in all the world have a better life. Some of that $125 billion spent on war this past year might have been put to better use saving human lives!


Jessi Hempel - New York, New York
This is an amazing story and wonderfully interactive presentation.

Booker Blumenberg - Gary, Indiana
Very informative. Our government and news media are not covering this important story. This is an urgent tragedy that requires attention and redress. Thanks to you for your sacrifice to make it known.


Perry Johnson - Indianapolis, Indiana
I went to Haiti in 1985 and found the same conditions on my visit. I was there shortly after Baby Doc was overthrown, it seems to me that the USA has had no feeling of compassion for the first slave nation to claim its independence. Is this a race issue? Only a few hundred miles from US shores, a history of manipulation by the USA dating back to the 1800s, and our policy of not allowing political or economic refuge is a disgrace.

Anonymous - West Vancouver, Canada
This is a very interesting story that really needed to be told. The water problems in Haiti really are horrific. The article is also very well written, and the author should be congratulated for the very clear writing, which makes this huge problem even more meaningful for the rest of us in N.America, sitting in our warm, comfortable homes with water immediately available for any of the many wasteful uses we require of it.


Gary Ogletree - Reno, Nevada
Well done. We should help, payback for supporting Papa Doc for so long.

Alexis Clark - New York, New York
A moving story. Shoshana Guy truly captured the hopelessness of this region of the Caribbean. It's a shame to know that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from drinking contaminated water. The United States could help Haitians build sewers and teach them more about environmental safeguards if they truly cared about the island. But that's the problem -- no one does.


Bob DellaValle-Rauthe - Huddleston, Virginia
Thank you for doing this story. The pictures are wonderful. I just returned once more from Haiti on a Pax Christi USA Haiti Human Rights Mission (Sept. 27-Oct.4) - a full report can be found at I was told by a number of people that in a few years Port-au-Prince will be forced to import clean water. Culligan is on site producing water but a very high cost and not available to most of the population. I believe in the rural areas where we frequently travel the ingesting of non-potable water is probably as high as 80-90% and the primary cause of disease in Haiti, according to Dr. Paul Farmer and my own eyewitness.

Joel Robbins - Syracuse, Indiana
Nicely fashioned report, Shoshana! I'm going to pass it on to friends and family. My son was in Haiti for over two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. My wife and I visited him there two times for a week-and-a-half each time. We know the problems but few people do. Your report will help an isolationist world understand. Americans especially have little understanding of the world other than from vacationing at foreign resorts.

I hope you follow this up with suggestions on how to help. A lot of mission work in Haiti consists of stopgap measures that are temporary and/or make Haiti into a country of beggars and welfare recipients. The solution is not simple, but the rest of the world needs advice on how to help.

Anonymous - Birmingham, Alabama
The text is correct and describes with precision the plight for water in Haiti, the complexity and the importance of the problem. On the scale of Maslow's basic human needs, water ranks second and no life is possible without it. So the government of Haiti and its allies s well as the NGOs and the various associations and organizations in the country need to give this issue top priority.

Specialists as well as development workers and lay people have been debating and reflecting on the issue for years; Possibly effective strategies have been defined. If I remember correctly, the following have been proposed in different workshop documents:

  1. Privatization of the water plant in Port-Au-Prince. (personally I do not expect that to help.)
  2. Urbanization control; the government to offer strong incentives for people to move out of the capital, reducing the load on the existing system. Support/stimulate private water system for rural areas. It will cost less to build a new one than to repair the capital's system.
  3. Windmills powered sea water transformation for costal cities.
  4. Extensive dry wall project for at least 75% of the Haitian mountains. (It was once suggested that each enregistered NGO completes a minimum length of dry wall yearly.)
Those propositions may not solve the problem but they might well take a big bite out of it.

Kathi Larson - Yankton, South Dakota
I have been to Haiti's western coast twice now in the last two years to the city of Jeremie and work with the Haitian Health Foundation and know some of the struggles that the Haitian people face, it takes people like you to get the word out to the rest of the world. Thank you!


L. Andre Stevens - Katonah, New York
I think what should be done is not the privatization of CAMEP and SNEP, Haiti needs private investments which would provide help in creating dessalination centers, dams, upgrade the capacity of Peligre, and the irrigation issue should be dealt by the merger of these two entities. One way it could be done is selling bonds to Haitian investors, and lease the equipment in return for profit sharing as the water could generate electricity which people will pay a premium for in Haiti. The creation of a new bureaucratic entity will create more problems since they would [have] to share financing with other ministries. The Haitians could also bring [in] foreign help giving them tax [breaks] if they invest in the infrastructure. One government they could tap for that is Singapore which has a formidable record on water generation.I think the sectors [that] need privatization are telephone, internet, satellite services, higher education, private research, broadband, mining and exploration -- but crucial services like water and electricity should be left to the state. Haiti needs those public sector jobs to keep unemployment rate down since private companies will be more profit-driven and hire less workers.

In response to the question: What responsibility, if any, does the U.S. bear toward helping Haiti solve its water crisis?

Saby - Georgia
Being a Haitian, I am filled with sadness when I see how my people are living like dogs. I went to Haiti last year, and hell is one of the best ways to describe how the poor and the better off depend on money coming from America and Canada. The government is to blame; they pocket what others have given to Haiti and then have the nerve to ask for more. This is a problem I debate with my fellow Haitians during gatherings. We know how to fix the problem, but we are not willing to help.