Published on The Water Blog

Making development strides in Haiti’s water sector

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In Haiti, a child washes his hands from water delivered by the water truck. Photo: CMORimages/Shutterstock In Haiti, a child washes his hands from water delivered by the water truck. Photo: CMORimages/Shutterstock

With a Gross National Income of US$1,420, Haiti remains the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean region. In 2021, more than 50 percent of the population was below the lower-middle-income country poverty line of USD 3.2 per day. The country is also the most vulnerable to natural hazards including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.  Ninety-six percent of its population is affected by these shocks. Practices such as deforestation and unsustainable land use have resulted in one-third of the land becoming eroded beyond recovery.

In 2010, a cholera outbreak that infected more than 820,000 people and led to 10,000 deaths, rattled Haiti’s national water and sanitation strategy. This outbreak resulted in the creation of a National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera between 2013 and 2022 administered under the Direction Nationale de l'Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement (DINEPA). However, 45 percent of the population did not have access to drinking water in 2017 and drastic improvements in access to sanitation were needed (open defecation accounted for 66 percent nationwide, and 43 percent in rural areas) to address the country’s goal of eliminating the disease over the ten subsequent years and achieving SDG6. To do this, operational-level activities such as repairs of water systems in health centers, chlorination of water systems, private pumping wells, water truck delivery to camps for displaced persons, distribution of household water treatment products to families, installation of water supply stations and installation of water quality laboratories, had to be rolled out.

Further, devastating hurricanes and earthquakes weakened Haiti’s water supply and sanitation. This is compounded by the country’s governance issues and massive insecurity. These challenges directly affect the water supply and sanitation sectors and contribute to poor institutional coordination and regulatory fragmentation. A recent assessment supported by the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), revealed that the country’s water laws and policies are disjointed and weakly enforced, and the overall water management framework struggles with ministerial redundancies and lack of strategy. In addition, regulatory capacity is low, and the judicial system is overburdened.

The assessment also found a lack of sustainable management of water and sanitation infrastructure. For example, the country lacks adequate water production and distribution infrastructure, and there is a huge infrastructure deficit at the anchor point of the sanitation service chain; safe fecal sludge treatment and reuse. Similarly, climate change is already exacerbating Haiti’s water sector. Droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events will become more frequent and severe, likely leading to greater public health risks due to infrastructure damage and service disruption, a potential decrease in water quality, and disruption of agricultural practices, which can subsequently intensify the risk of waterborne diseases and food insecurity.

GWSP Activities in Haiti

The World Bank’s primary objectives in Haiti are to strengthen the national agency for drinking water and sanitation and improve the sector’s financial viability.  The Bank also aims to support service provision in rural areas, enhance the efficiency of deconcentrated structures, and provide evidence to aid the Government in addressing sanitation challenges more systematically. The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program has helped increase access to drinking water for more than 565,000 people in rural area and small towns through construction, rehabilitation, and extension of supply systems for potable water.  It has also provided access to improved sanitation facilities for more than 31,000 people. To support this work, in 2017, GWSP funding was mobilized to strengthen institutions, sustainability, and financing of water sector activities, continuing the World Bank’s role as the largest technical and financial partner for the Government of Haiti in the rural water and sanitation sector. Previously, Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) work in Haiti included capacity building, institutional strengthening, and supporting water and sanitation sector reform focused on rural areas and small towns. GWSP expanded this support through the Haiti Water and Sanitation Sector Reform Consolidation grant. The grant was intended to strengthen the capacity of the DINEPA and its agencies at the regional and local levels to plan through an integrated urban water management (IUWM) approach; to provide efficient and effective Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) services in urban and rural areas; to integrate inclusive green growth into WSS solutions; and to disseminate knowledge regionally and globally.

The Partnership also provided additional support through the Haiti Water and Sanitation Monitoring and Technical grant. The grant sought to strengthen the Haiti Water Utilities’ capacity to monitor sector development progress, promote innovative sanitation solutions, build knowledge, and enable private-sector participation in WSS delivery in small towns.

The combined effects of multiple hurricanes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and political turmoil in Haiti threaten the progress of the country’s development. However, it should be noted that while access to drinking water and sanitation has not progressed – it is also notable that access levels have not collapsed. 

The World Bank, together with GWSP’s financial and advisory support to DINEPA, and its subsidiary agencies, has enabled sector managers to relatively maintain the status quo over the five-year period the Partnership has been operating in the country. Additionally, ongoing technical assistance and advisory services backed by GWSP will help strengthen institutions, generate knowledge, and develop monitoring tools for the water sector in the country. With lurking risks such as the return of cholera in Haiti, the contributions by the World Bank, GWSP and other development partners will be urgently needed to ensure that countries can stay on track to achieving SDG6.

Related Links:

In Haiti, Access to Water and Sanitation is Vital, and the World Bank Is Making This Possible

Using digital solutions to improve water access in Haiti

Forging a path to progress for Haiti's water and sanitation


Farah A. Dorval

Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

Véronique Verdeil

Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

Christophe Prevost

Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

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